Open Thread 156.5

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772 Responses to Open Thread 156.5

  1. Barry says:

    People who have done LASIK or other laser eye surgery strictly for the purpose of no longer having to wear glasses or lenses, what was your experience like? Are you happy with your decision? What kind of side effects are you experiencing?

    Anyone knowledgeable on the subject, what does the latest research suggest about the long-term effects and risks?

    I’m trying to get a feel for this topic in order to help an older relative weigh the pros and cons of the procedure.

    • CatCube says:

      I got LASIK in 2000 for the express purpose of not needing glasses. I used to snowmobile extensively and got tired of my glasses fogging up. I’ve been very happy with the decision, and still don’t need glasses, though it’s probably getting close to that point.

      The only side effect I noticed was the slight halo around lights and night I was warned about by the doctor prior to doing the surgery. It’s mostly something I only notice when looking for it, as I got used to it.

    • Plumber says:

      I got “laser radial keratonomy” (or something that sounds like that) which was pre LASIK back in the mid ’90’s (in order to apply for a job that had a “no glasses” requirement), the difference between it and LASiK (as I understand it) is that with LASIK they cut around the cornea of the eye and sort of flap it up and out of the way, while with RK they scrape it away.
      For my first eye it felt exactly like what they were doing and it was extremely painful, for me second eye they gave me double the valium that they did the first time and it wasn’t as bad.
      My wife tried to get LASIK in the 2000’s, but her eyes were too small and she had to get RK instead, she also found it extremely painful (“Why didn’t you tell me ot was going to hurt so much!”, “I did!”, “But you know I never listen to you!”), both of us have better distance vision, but lost some close up vision and now need reading glasses (in my case bright outside daylight often means I don’t need reading glasses, but inside I usually do), afterwards I also found that I was much more dependent on sunglasses outside as well.
      On balance it was a good trade, I’d try to stockpile some extra pain killers first though.

      • b_jonas says:

        > in the mid ’90’s […] in order to apply for a job that had a “no glasses” requirement

        What was your experience with contact lenses? (Yes, I know they sucked back then, but still, the experience differs from person to person.)

        • Plumber says:

          The particular job (California Highway Patrolman) had an uncorrected (no glasses or contacts) requirement, so I needed surgery to apply anyway, as it was I found that contacts didn’t mesh well with motorcycling, construction work (but neither did prescription glasses unless I shelled out for a lot of spare “safety” rated ones), the first time I spent the night with a lady friend for a three night stand was the deal breaker, as I wasn’t supposed to wear contacts overnight. Once I moved in with the women who I later married I pretty much stopped wearing contacts (and she started wearing them a lot less), and on that note a previous romantic relationship ended after she told me “I’ll never have kids with a guy who also needs glasses”.

          • Belisaurus Rex says:

            Once I moved in with the women who I later married

            Grow up in Utah?

          • Plumber says:

            @Belisaurus Rex says:

            “…Grow up in Utah?…”

            Nope, for at least 90% of my life I’ve slept within ten miles of my birthplace in Oakland, California and my childhood and youth were in south Berkeley and north Oakland (depending on when I was with my Mom and when I was with my Dad), I’m almost sure this is a joke relating to Mormonism but it’s over my head, and on that note, as I alluded to (but didn’t finish the thought) if I had eye surgery in the ’80’s instead of the ’90’s (and posed as having naturally good eyesight) maybe I would’ve been married with children earlier (like Mormons are stereotyped to do), so a factor to consider (but since corrective surgery is far more available now maybe the ladies of 2020 don’t care as much about that as those of 1989).

          • SamChevre says:

            @Plumber

            It was a joke about a typo – women rather than woman.

          • Plumber says:

            @SamChevre,
            Oh jeez, I didn’t even notice that, thanks!
            Any corrective surgery to fix my lack of observation?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Any corrective surgery to fix my lack of observation?”

            No, but it could be a fun topic for speculation– not just proof-reading, but what might the world be like if it were easy to bring most people’s talents up to at least high normal?

          • b_jonas says:

            Thanks for the detailed answer.

            If that’s a job offered directly by a government, I hope someone eventually lobbies or sues them to change such a pointless requirement for their job. Governments shouldn’t be allowed to stipulate such things unless it’s really needed for the job, like for an air force pilot.

            Construction work I can certainly understand, but I find it a bit surprising that contacts didn’t work for you during motorcycling.

            @Nancy Lebovitz: that’s a sci-fi topic, yes. I’m thinking of the ending of StickManStickMan webcomics, near “https://stickman.qntm.org/comics.php?n=963”. Guy L decides to get trained to a very good fighter within a few hours using sci-fi treatments. That wasn’t really the kind of thing he wanted to do up to that point, and he doesn’t expect it to make a significant difference here, when the legendary one-in-the-universe hero Guy S is about to fight the legendary one-in-the-universe foe Zero, but Guy L is Guy S’s friend and he just wants to be by his side.

    • b_jonas says:

      I specifically refuse laser eye surgery, and there’s not much at this point that could convince me to do it. The only advantage surgery would have is to reduce vision problems, which would mean that either I wouldn’t wear glasses or wore lighter cheaper ones. I enjoy glasses most of the time, and the few times when they cause difficulty don’t seem enough. Meanwhile, my myopia has long-term effects namely it severely increases the risk of retinal detachment, and increases the risk of cataracts and glaucoma. Laser eye surgery almost certainly doesn’t reduce any of those risk, and it may increase them. How much risk the surgery has is debated, but for now I don’t care about the debate, because there’s only 20 or 25 years of experience of laser eye surgery, while I expect to have more than 25 remaining years of vision, so there’s not enough data for how it would affect me when I am old. I will have to reconsider this in a decade when the numbers change, and similarly your older relatives may consider LASIK if the risk is worth for them. Until then I find it more convenient to ignore the issue, because there’s already another uncomfortable thought I have to reconsider right now about improving my vision (contact lenses). Also it’s hard to think about laser eye surgery abstractly while keeping my thoughts away from cataract surgery, which is probably even worse, so I probably couldn’t make a rational decision.

    • cassander says:

      I got it done a few years ago because I was sick of glasses and contacts. I get a little bit of haloing at night around very bright lights, but it’s not consistent ad it’s not much worse than dry contacts or dirty glasses. I really like not having to fuck around with visual aids.

    • Clutzy says:

      My girlfriend did it 2 years ago. She’s very happy, but needs to use eyedrops a bit more for dry eyes.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I got it done in 2012, when I was 29. I regard it as the best money I’ve ever spent on anything. I enjoy not having to wear glasses and contacts, the surgery has already paid for itself, there’s a real happiness to waking up in the morning and and being immediately able to see – it’s great. There are some halo effects when looking at light sources, and my ability to track fast-moving objects under artificial light is somewhat impaired (though I can still play a decent game of tennis indoors) but overall it’s more than worth it for me.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Whole procedure took less time than the duration of the song Jolene which I know because it was playing when it started. Your vision goes black at one point and I was not told that would happen which was the scariest part, but you’re on Xanax and I found myself weirdly resigned to blindness in the seconds before the sight came back. It feels like someone pressing a small vacuum nozzle against your eye firmly, but not painfully. Stings like a motherfucker for like an hour after where you just keep your eyes gently closed and listen to audiobooks or something.

      Absolutely worth it. My eyesight isn’t as clear as right after the surgery, and for about a year after my right eye degraded a little faster so there was a slight double vision effect, but they both stabilized at the same level and I still don’t need glasses, just don’t have pristine eagle eyes. Still completely worth it. I don’t really experience more halos around lights, but I’ve always found that to happen so maybe there’s something preexisiting with my eyes. My eyesight was near the limit of what they said they could fix so I might be a special case, and my eyes were expected to continue degrading slightly.

      Also turned me on to preservative free eye drops, which they tell you to use after the surgery. I don’t actually need them but I love having them on hand for a refresh when my eyes happen to feel dry.

    • oriscratch says:

      Be careful. I know someone who did LASIK a few decades ago, but the doctor was kinda seedy (small location, suspiciously low price) and ended up permanently screwing up her vision. Later she found out that the doctor dropped something in the middle of the procedure (not sure about the specifics) and they were using a cheap machine know to have a relatively lower success rate. Her vision was really bad for the first year afterwards, and later recovered a bit but never enough for her to safely, say, drive on the freeway. Glasses and contacts can’t correct it. Make sure the doctor is reputable and look up the machine they’re using first.

      The doctor who did it is actually still in practice, though I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to post his name or not.

    • hash872 says:

      I’m jealous of anyone that could stand to have this procedure done on them. I also wear glasses/contacts and would like to have LASIK, but my anxiety absolutely would not allow me to have surgery on my eyes, much less while I’m awake. Just thinking about it gives me the creeps

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I had Lazik about 2003 or so. I think it cost about $3000 and I agree with Tarpitz that it was the best thing I ever bought. I had to wear glasses from about 8 years old, and I had very strong glasses when I got the operation. I do need to wear glasses for night driving now, but that is nothing as bad as being always dependent on glasses. I also need cheaters for very small print, when I used to be able to just remove my glasses, but again not a major deal.

      By the way, I am very sensitive around my eyes, so it was kind of difficult to get the operation done. But it only took a few minutes and was totally worth the discomfort. I am somewhat shocked to see the number of middle class people that still wear glasses, when there is an easy way to get rid of them.

    • relative-energy says:

      Did it a few years ago, and would do it again. My vision has degraded slightly since then, but when I had it tested it was “only” down to 20/20.

      Recovery was relatively quick. I had the usual halos, but they either went away or I stopped noticing them after a few months.

    • digbyforever says:

      I also wholeheartedly recommend. Got LASIK a few years ago and went from badly nearsighted to having never needed any correctives, on either direction (near/far/small print) since then. Informally I say I had about 98% fix in one eye and 95% fix in the other (although my eyes weren’t identically sighted pre-LASIK, so this may have just emphasized the pre-existing difference). The halo effect is still the primary “side effect,” but like some of the other users, I found that my brain has tuned it out in normal circumstances and I only notice in extreme conditions (mostly night/rainy). It’s not perfect perfect, but it’s about as much as I could have hoped for.

      My optometrist recommended me a reputable center for it, and on the logistical side I was able to use HSA money to pay for it, and they administer an anti-anxiety drug before you start the procedure, for what it’s worth. Couple of days of recuperation with moisturizing and anti-infection droplets and avoiding touching your eyes.

    • March says:

      Had LASEK in 2006, agree with ‘best money I ever spent.’ I picked out a fancy, high-end and expensive clinic in town instead of a ‘fly to a cheap country, spend a week in a hotel and come back with fancy new eyesight’ option and haven’t regretted it.

      Pre-surgery: couldn’t wear contacts anymore because of eye sensitivity, and because there was a big difference in my prescriptions for left and right eyes, glasses made me look deformed & would give me headaches.
      Side effects now: none. My eyesight in my left eye is almost preternaturally good, right may have a slight diopter but who cares. My eyes are a tad dry. I’m going to age into reading glasses sooner than I would if I hadn’t done LASEK, but I don’t mind.
      Side effects right after surgery: LASEK kinda hurts during recovery and I found it hard to stay awake for about a week (because my eyes felt the same like they feel when you’re so tired you literally can’t keep your eyes open). I did both at the same time and could NOT have worked that week. I had halos for a while, but that went away.

      • b_jonas says:

        > a fancy, high-end and expensive clinic in town instead of a ‘fly to a cheap country, spend a week in a hotel and come back with fancy new eyesight’ option

        It’s exactly because our country is cheap that the best doctors and supporting staff end up in expensive high-end clinics servicing foreigners, because the government can’t pay those doctors enough money to work at government-operated clinics. Those doctors were trained back in the 70s or 80s, when the situation was different, and they got better medical education than you can get anywhere in America. What do you imagine such a doctor will choose? Spend 36 hour shifts waiting for patients who got into a drunken fight in a shady bar, broke their jaw, and she now has to piece the shattered bone fragments together, in a dirty government-ran hospital that doesn’t have enough money to buy toilet paper for the patients; or have the best private clinics bid for her so she can put simple dental implants to rich foreigner clients in an environment where she doesn’t have to deal with annoying petty concerns that are under her paygrade.

        For visitors like you who come here for a surgery, the only part of the experience that sucks is the airport, because there’s only one and it has to cater to the poor locals as well.

  2. TimG says:

    I’ve seen/read in multiple places that things like the “war on drugs” and the prohibition of marijuana were *primarily* driven by the desire to incarcerate black people (and by extension weaken their political clout.) How much truth is there to these allegations?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I’d say, only a grain of truth. The fact that the public thought of drug use as a black thing must have made them more willing to believe exaggerated stories about its effects, but otherwise I read the WOD as a straightforward moral panic.

    • DeWitt says:

      “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.”

      The above quote is John Ehrlichman’s, a close confidant of Richard Nixon’s and one of the people who (briefly) went to jail after the Watergate debacle. Up to you to decide how genuine he’s being, but it does imply that there’s some truth to what you’re saying.

      • J Mann says:

        Has Dan Baum ever come out with a recording, or contemporaneous notes or something?

        I guess that quote could have happened, but it seems just bizarre that Baum got that quote in 1994 in the course of researching his book Smoke and Mirrors, the War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, published his book in 96 without using that quote in any way, (even though a substantial part of the book is specifically about Nixon’s contributions to the drug war), and then sat on the quote for the next 22 years.

        • DeWitt says:

          Not to my knowledge, he hasn’t, and he’s received some pushback on the idea. I have no clue of what to believe and I’m not even really sure how relevant it is to our current situation.

          • So when you say “The above quote is John Ehrlichman’s,” what you mean is that the quote is what someone else claims Ehrlichman said?

            That’s not how I would interpret your statement, and it changes it from strong evidence for the claim about Nixon to no evidence.

          • DeWitt says:

            It’s disputed evidence, not ‘no evidence’. If Dan Baum insists it was said to him without proof that’s one thing, but if he merely has other stuff to do I’m not sure what can be blamed on him.

          • Do you know of any evidence that Ehrlichman made the statement other than Baum saying he did?

            If not, then describing it as a quote from Ehrlichman is wrong. It’s a purported quote from Ehrlichman, or something Baum says Ehrlichman said.

            Any purported quote that supports what the person claiming it wants people to believe and not what the person supposedly being quoted would want people to believe and is not supported by evidence should be treated as probably false.

            Do you disagree?

            People rarely say things confessing they are the bad guys. People frequently claim that other people are the bad guys, and inventing a quote is one way of doing so.

            My previous example of this was Ron Susskind’s claim that some unnamed person in the Bush administration described critics of the administration as “in what we call the reality-based community” . He didn’t say who he was quoting and, so far as I know, never provided any evidence that the quote was real.

            I concluded that the willingness of people who agreed with Susskind to treat that quote as a fact was evidence that they were not a reality-based community.

          • At a tangent …

            I earlier commented on the importance of learning to judge sources of information on internal evidence, and described Unz’s Nazi apologetics as an example of the use of that skill. I may be flattering myself, but I’m pretty sure I would have spotted it as a con job even if I knew nothing about the relevant history.

            The purported Ehrlichman quote is another and clearer example. It’s precisely what people on the left hostile to Nixon would want to believe Ehrlichman said, not at all what Ehrlichman would have wanted people to believe, even if it was true. The rational conclusion is that it’s probably a lie — to be modified if it turns out that there is actually evidence for it beyond Baum’s claim.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          If there are other, better-attested instances of Ehrlichman talking like a Bond villain, that would allay my skepticism somewhat.

      • tg56 says:

        This ‘quote’ is pretty heavily disputed. This quote is from 26 years after the events in question, and even then the only person who heard it, who has his own political axes to grind, sat on it for 22 years, till well after the quotee died, before publishing and hasn’t released any contemporaneous evidence that I’ve heard off. Has he even said if wrote it down, is he going off of memory 22 years distant? This is heresay at best, yet people keep pointing to it like some kind of indictment and it received tons of press when it came out.

    • TomParks says:

      I suspect one of the ways discussions like this go sideways is by centering intentionality. For example, anyone reading this may think I have any number of motives for writing what I am writing. Are they right? Heck if I know. For what it’s worth, here’s how I think of it: The statement “Political systems do more bad things to people with less political power” is generally true no matter the motivations of the people involved. But those motivations play a part in complex ways in just how much political power people have. On this general topic, the documentary “13th” is streaming on Netflix. And interesting articles about the history of Harry Anslinger are available on the net, though I bet someone’s written a good book.

      • TimG says:

        I suspect one of the ways discussions like this go sideways is by centering intentionality.

        I’m specifically interested if it is intentional — in the most unforgiving interpretation of the term.

    • Gwythyr says:

      I am not able to find it quickly but I’ve read a decently-sourced article that initial push for disproportional criminalization of crack cocaine was in large part a responsibility of black politicians and black grassroots organizations, who have seen that “black” drugs hurt black community much worse than “white” drugs hurt white community and wanted the state to step in. Motives of more established white politicians are anybody’s guess.

      After not too many years many activists from the black community (including some of the original proponents) have seen that WoD was even worse, but was not able to turn the tide back. Some acknowledged a mistake but at article gave an example of at least one politician who have gone from actively promoting WoD in the 80-s to peddling the narrative of “it was an intentional attack on black community” after the year 2k.

      • TimG says:

        disproportional criminalization of crack cocaine

        My current thinking is that sentences end up being proportional to the overall size of the problem. What I mean is, men get higher sentences than women — because they commit more crime. US has higher sentences than Europe for the same reason. And (arguably) black people get higher sentences because they commit more crime, also. (I’m not saying it is right or justified. Just that it is a rule that seems to hold.)

    • Talexander Urok says:

      Well, you could start with the fact that marijuana is prohibited nearly everywhere outside the United States. Most have some kind of “war on drugs” as well.

      • Well... says:

        A lot of that started due to pressure from the United States, though. It was really the US (and in particular, Bishop Charles Brent and its progressive backers) who pushed for the Shanghai and Hague Conferences in the early 20th century.

    • Aapje says:

      @TimG

      That is a revisionist narrative, completely undermined by how Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and many other Democrats supported those policies. Hillary Clinton explained in a meeting with BLM how many Democrats felt at that time:

      “It’s important to remember — and I certainly remember — that there was a very serious crime wave that was impacting primarily communities of color and poor people. And part of it was that there was just not enough attention paid,” Clinton said then. “So you know, you could argue that people who were trying to address that— including my husband, when he was president — were responding to the very real concerns of people in the communities themselves.”

      • J Mann says:

        My recollection of the 80s is that most people were concerned about black victims of drug crime, and that crack was perceived as being actually more harmful to drug users and communities than powdered cocaine, and as disproportionately harming black communities. It’s dated, but go watch New Jack City, or check out the active conspiracy theory in those days that the US government was distributing crack to destabilize the black communities.

        I can’t really speak to 1974, but it is a bit weird to hypothesize that countries all over the world criminalized drugs because Nixon wanted to destabilize the black community with drug penalties. If there wasn’t a legitimate and widespread concern about drugs, why would even our allies help us, much less the Soviet block during the Cold War?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I think you’re mixing up the narratives about the War on Drugs (basically launched when Nixon established the DEA) and the Era of Mass Incarceration kicked off by Bill Clinton’s crime bill.

        I don’t have a strong opinion on racial motivations of the War on Drugs, but as far as the crime bill goes, I think that’s an accurate statement by Hillary Clinton. The response to the crack epidemic was not because evil white people wanted to lock up black people. It was absolutely because little black grandmas were very tired of looking out their front windows to see drug gangs shooting each other in the street. No one at the time anticipated what the resulting mass incarceration would do to black communities.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      How much truth is there to these allegations?

      None, since equivalent measures were enacted in pretty much all Western European countries, most of which had no significant black populations and no history of black slavery or Jim Crow.

      • TimG says:

        I’m surprised/relieved that there seems to be more-or-less universal agreement that this didn’t happen. I feel like I trust this audience to know/report this kind of truth.

        • Well... says:

          viVI_IViv is leaving out an important fact, which I noted to Talexander Urok above: the other countries initially got their drug policies from the US, by being pressured or otherwise incentivized to sign onto various anti-drug agreements.

          • zardoz says:

            Other countries totally outside the American sphere of influence also instituted anti-drug policies during the same time frame. For example, the Soviet Union increased penalties against drugs in 1974.

            The simple fact is that a lot of crazy drugs were invented during the twentieth century that hadn’t existed before, or been widely available. Drugs have obvious harms to people and society, and governments reacted accordingly. We can debate whether it was the right reaction or not, but no conspiracy theories are needed.

          • zardoz says:

            By the way, I do think the US had some influence over how severely different classes of drugs were treated in Europe and elsewhere. In particular, the US pushed for a harder line on marijuana. But that was mostly because of the culture war of the time (Nixon vs. hippies), not because of some nefarious plot to oppress black people.

            The Jim Crow policies that the US south did have to oppress black people, like poll taxes, were not things that anyone was pushing internationally (what would be the point?)

            There were also people like Timothy Leary who believed that drugs would totally transform society and usher in a new age. They made conservatives very afraid at the time.

          • Well... says:

            This isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s plainly documented policy, instituted LONG before the 1970s. By the time drugs like LSD or PCP were invented, broad drug policies were already in place and it was simply a matter of shuffling these new drugs into established pigeonholes. Governments’ reactions were almost always unreasonable, because drugs are very scary to people who don’t know anything about them, and it’s very easy for a few negative effects to be blown out of proportion.

    • Well... says:

      It’s hard to know exactly what was in the hearts of the people who started the war on drugs. An uncharitable — but not at all far-fetched — reading of, say, the Harrison Narcotics Act would be that it was to keep Chinese and other immigrants out of the country. But by 1914 when that Act was passed some states already had anti-drug laws, and our actions in the Philippines in 1898 were basically consistent with those; it mostly seems (to me) to have sprouted from a kind of religious puritanism.

      When it comes to relations with black people, the Puritans themselves have a mixed history; some were very anti-slavery, but some of the first American slave-holders (e.g. Cotton Mather) were Puritans too. (Mather, by the way, was very explicit about his reason for holding slaves: basically, he believed it made God happy for whites to own blacks.)

      • Talexander Urok says:

        An uncharitable — but not at all far-fetched — reading of, say, the Harrison Narcotics Act would be that it was to keep Chinese and other immigrants out of the country.

        Why? They already had the Chinese Exclusion Act. They’d had it for thirty years at that point.

        it mostly seems (to me) to have sprouted from a kind of religious puritanism.

        You can cite religion, you can cite American pressure, but seems to me like a sufficient causal mechanism is simply a visit to the opium dens. China didn’t have any of the heritage of Christianity yet it got very angry about all the opium in the country. When the Japanese conquered Taiwan, they didn’t need Jesus to want to eliminate the vice:

        Shortly after acquiring Taiwan in 1895, then Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi ordered that opium should be banned in Taiwan as soon as possible. However, due to the pervasiveness of opium addiction in Taiwanese society at the time, and the social and economic problems caused by complete prohibition, the initial hard line policy was relaxed in a few years. On January 21, 1897, the Colonial Government issued the Taiwan Opium Edict mandating a government monopoly of the opium trade, and restricting the sale of opium to those with government issued permits, with the ultimate goal of total abolition. The number of opium addicts in Taiwan quickly dropped from millions to 169,064 in 1900 (6.3% of the total population at the time), to 45,832 (1.3% of the population) by 1921. However, the numbers were still higher than those in nations where opium was completely prohibited. It was generally believed that one important factor behind the Colonial Government’s reluctance to completely ban opium was the potential profit to be made through a state run narcotics monopoly.

        In 1921, the Taiwanese People’s Party accused colonial authorities before the League of Nations of being complacent in the addiction of over 40,000 people, while making a profit off opium sales. To avoid controversy, the Colonial Government issued the New Taiwan Opium Edict on December 28, and related details of the new policy on January 8 of the following year. Under the new laws, the number of opium permits issued was decreased, a rehabilitation clinic was opened in Taihoku, and a concerted anti-drug campaign launched.[64] Despite the directive, the government remained involved with the opium trade until June 1945.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan_under_Japanese_rule

        You don’t hear much about the Chinese experience with opium when people describe the history of the “drug war.” It’s the first major country* to have this widespread addiction to a substance other than alcohol or tobacco. How was that handled?

        *Not counting some backwaters in Yemen, Colombia, etc.

        • Well... says:

          It’s the first major country* to have this widespread addiction to a substance other than alcohol or tobacco. How was that handled?

          Hard to know. What impacts the reaction more: the addiction itself, or the way it’s reported at the time and written about for posterity? I wouldn’t even trust a 21st century journalist with the aid of the internet to report about that kind of thing in a way that provides an accurate sense of it. How did they do with bath salts? If I had to bet, I’d bet the depravity and scale of opium dens were exaggerated in contemporary accounts.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Opium addiction was allegedly a major social problem in 18th century Britain.

            Absinthe addiction was also a major issue in France and other countries in the 19th century, leading to bans, although it’s now unclear whether the actual wormwood extracts had anything to do with the addiction or this was normal alcoholism and wormwood was just a popular flavor for alcoholic beverages, but at the time people perceived it as a powerful drug.

          • noyann says:

            The bad reputation of absinthe comes from the French wine industry that lost revenue to cheap distilled spirits. The association with a cultural elite subculture that was jazzing it up contributes to the myth.

          • Well... says:

            The fuss over absinthe, and wild misconceptions about it that persist even today, perfectly illustrates the problem with historical accounts of drug addiction.

            Were there opium dens and opium addicts in China in the 18th and 19th centuries? Certainly. But we should be very skeptical when reviewing apocalyptic claims about their quality and quantity.

            Modern research shows that a small percentage of people who try opiates recreationally end up as repeat users. (Have you ever tried opium? I have. It was a lot of fun. I did it one time in high school and had no problems. This is not the experience for everyone, but statistically it appears to be the experience for most.) Of those repeat users, a small percentage become addicts. Of those who become addicts, some percentage end up experiencing serious negative effects from their addictions. Those who experience serious negative effects can cause a lot of grief for their family, coworkers, friends, neighbors, etc. This makes addiction a sexy news story.

            “Doing something” about places where problematic addicts congregate is politically lucrative. All the incentives align to make ruinous addiction look like a bigger problem than it really is.

    • teneditica says:

      What explains the war on drugs in countries that barely have any black people then? Or had, when it started?

      • Well... says:

        American pressure, for one thing. For example, during WWII the US withheld aid to other countries unless they signed on to our drug policies. (Sometimes these were “international” policies, but ones we basically authored.)

        • JayT says:

          But why would America bother pressuring those other countries if the “real” goal was racial in nature?

          • Well... says:

            I think motivations can change over time, and there can be numerous simultaneous motivations. “Fear of the unknown” is the simplest explanation for:

            Allen sees Bob. Bob does drugs and acts weird. Allen hasn’t tried the drug, but assumes the worst about it and recommends Bob be locked up and his drugs taken away from him and outlawed.

            Other motivations in the war on drugs include but are not limited to religion, racial animus, political animus, money, and influence.

          • keaswaran says:

            How do you classify someone who says “black people are awful, and we should keep them out of power, but the reason they’re awful is because they’re all on drugs, and so the even bigger thing we should do is ban drugs, even in places where there are no black people”? Even if this statement is a correct statement of the person’s motives, it seems natural to associate their anti-drug feelings with their racism. But most emotional feelings like this are really two-way, and someone who thinks black people are bad because of drugs also usually thinks drugs are bad because they make people be like black people.

          • JayT says:

            Was anyone actually saying that? How does “black people on drugs are awful” lead to “we should ban drugs where there are no black people”? I just don’t see how that follows.

            It seems to me, what people actually say is “all people on drugs are awful, so we need to make drugs illegal everywhere.” If the powers that be were making drugs illegal to target the black population, why waste time and money convincing majority white countries to implement your drug policies instead of just using that to crack down harder at home? If anything, the fact that the US pushed it’s drug policies on other nations seems to be evidence against it being racially motivated.

          • Well... says:

            I think individual people are more complex than this: they have multiple motivations, some they don’t even realize they have, others they might realize they have but don’t accurately assess the importance of, etc. And one motivation might be primary in situation A, while another motivation replaces it when that person moves on to situation B. And then when that person has had a bit of time to think about it, motivation C becomes most important.

            Organizations full of individual people also are more complex than this. Their motivations can further be fractured: half the organization wants to do a thing for X reason, while the other half wants to do that same thing but for Y reason. And the two halves are wrestling for power, so that over time the organization starts out doing the thing for X reason but later is doing it for Y reason. You get the idea.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      A lot of people seem to be equivocating between the American war on drugs and the situation in European countries on the basis that they generally share the policy “drugs are illegal”. But there are other very major differences in policy. The (per capita) number of Americans in prison for drug offenses is about the same as the total number of people imprisoned for all crimes in comparable countries (UK, Canada, Australia). And this actually understates the difference — those other Anglophone countries themselves have relatively high rates compared to the rest of the developed world.

      • cassander says:

        the US has more people in prison for a lot of things than other countries, for a variety of reasons.

      • Talexander Urok says:

        There’s aren’t many people in Malaysia and Singapore in prison for drug dealing.

      • Anonymous Coward says:

        Source? The most recent comprehensive BJS data (“Prisoners in 2018”, link) says the U.S. has 260,600 in prison with a drug offense as their most serious offense (see pages 22 and 24). That’s 79 per 100k population. Google tells me Canada’s incarceration rate is 139 per 100k population, UK’s 145, Australia’s 221. The US still has higher incarceration rates, don’t get me wrong, but I think your central claim (that the US drug incarceration rate is higher than the total incarceration rate in the UK, Canada, and Australia) is false on its face.

    • cassander says:

      Is there some reason we’re writing prohibition of the of the history of the war on drugs? Because I don’t think we should. It pre-dates the phrase, but it’s clearly part of the same general impulse that led to the early anti-narcotic acts.

    • I thought the original anti-marijuana campaign portrayed it as a Hispanic drug.

      • Well... says:

        In the US, I can’t remember if it was anti-Mexican or anti-Black. I accidentally wrote anti-Chinese above, but that was for opiates.

        Anyway, a lot of people incorrectly think the war on drugs started with Nixon, whose rhetoric probably was more anti-Black than anti-Mexican.

        • Aftagley says:

          Anyway, a lot of people incorrectly think the war on drugs started with Nixon

          I’m one of those people, and I don’t think my impression is incorrect. When people say this, they don’t mean “america had literally no prohibitions on drugs before Nixon” they mean “Nixon started the modern, heavily punitive and militarized approach to drug policy that has been misguidedly followed ever since.”

          Here are some selected quotes from Nixon’s speech on Drugs in 1971. (full transcript)

          America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.

          I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world.

          If we are going to have a successful offensive, we need more money. Consequently, I am asking the Congress for $155 million in new funds, which will bring the total amount this year in the budget for drug abuse, both in enforcement and treatment, to over $350 million.

          I very much hesitate always to bring some new responsibility into the White House, because there are so many here, and I believe in delegating those responsibilities to the departments. But I consider this problem
          so urgent—I also found that it was scattered so much throughout the Government, with so much conflict, without coordination—that it had to be brought into the White House.

          You can see from those selected quotes that Nixon saw his actions as being something new rather than an extension of the existing drug policy, he’s basically doubling the funding for drug enforcement on a federal level and he’s specifically saying that unlike previously, this is a topic that demands direct presidential control.

          This was followed by the creation of the DEA, by the beginnings of the massive rise in drug incarcerations and the beginnings of the first system we can recognizably see as our modern approach to drug enforcement.

          • Well... says:

            This is a standard defense of saying Nixon started the war on drugs, but consider that:

            – we already had sweeping drug policy (and a budget for it) at the Federal level for 3/4 of a century.
            – we’d already entangled drug policy with military action and foreign policy. (See for example our requirement that Trinidad sign onto our drug policies before we would extend them aid during WWII.)
            – we already had Federal offices specially created for overseeing drug policy. FBN, anyone? Harry Anslinger much?

            I know it probably just boils down to semantics, but I wish people would instead say something like “Nixon amplified the war on drugs to what we recognize today”. Saying he started it does, in fact, lead a lot of people to wrongly assume there was little or very no drug policy before then, and/or that Nixon and his political ilk masterminded drug prohibition.

          • SamChevre says:

            I don’t have it handy, but in Will I believe G Gordon Liddy boated about using border control to pressure Mexico to adopt US-preferred drug policies.

          • Clutzy says:

            At the very least this has to be a huge exaggeration, given that almost all the policing of this stuff is not done at the federal level.

            Also, just generally, I think BLM and its associated movements seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of policing. Police policy is generally driven by what the local old people (aka voters) are demanding. Ending stop and frisk, and now “defund the police” are not grassroots movements, although some young black males may support them. They are academic movements. Old black ladies still want more police breaking up groups of young men standing around garbage can fires. Old black guys still want to feel like they can run out for a pack of cigarettes at 10PM, which they didn’t feel was safe to do in the 70s and 80s.

            That some sort of white patriarchy imposed tough urban policing on the cities from their suburban heights of power is some bizarre fantasy totally disconnected to reality. To the extent that it is mildly true, its only true to the extent that urban leaders realized that losing 90% of your white population, like Detroit, is devastating to the entire city’s economy and governance. And those people will flee if they don’t feel safe.

          • Well... says:

            I don’t know but I think the FBI often works with local police if they’re going into an operation they consider to be about drugs, like going after the leader of a drug gang or something.

            The FBI doesn’t show up every time a cop pulls someone over and then searches the car for drugs, but keep in mind also that the local police’s incentive to sniff everyone for drugs all the time is very much driven by Civil Asset Forfeiture laws (thanks Joe Biden!) which allow the cops to confiscate and keep any property or cash they even suspect of being tied to drug sales, without having to prove it.

            I don’t know what the data says old black ladies think about the policing of young black men. My mother-in-law is a grandmother in her late 60s and I’d bet she’s pretty on board with BLM. (As many noted of jury selection in the OJ Simpson trial, race ends up being a stronger identity than sex; maybe race is stronger than age and rowdiness, too.) In any case, the readiness of an anecdote that counters your supposition tells me we shouldn’t speculate without some solid data to look at.

          • Clutzy says:

            While I’d prefer a 1990s era article, google searches get eaten up nowadays, but this NYT article suffices (even though from my POV its a whitewash).

            https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/13/opinion/did-blacks-really-endorse-the-1994-crime-bill.html

            Yes, the black community wanted (or at least the voters and outspoken leaders wanted) increased policing, its just they also wanted all these other goodies as well.

  3. TomParks says:

    If anyone is looking to add a podcast to their list, here’s a quick recommendation for Slow Burn. The fourth season has begun exploring the career of David Duke. The first three seasons looked at Watergate; the Clinton-Lewinsky affair; and the deaths of Biggie and Tupac. I was around for all of those and old enough at the time to pay attention to two of them, and I found the series deep and interesting on all three topics.

  4. The_Scarlet_Herring says:

    I’m looking for some smart economists to follow. Actually, I’m looking for some more viewpoint-diversity among the economists I follow. Most of the names that come up on SSC and adjacent sites seem to be libertarians (ish). The SSC blogroll economists are almost all libertarian-leaning, right? Why is that? Does everyone who is skilled at both economics and rationality end up converging towards libertarianism? Surely there are some high-caliber thinkers I should be following in other branches of economics?

    • The Hamster Man says:

      I second this request. I currently follow Matt Darling @besttrousers on twitter, who is a behavioral economist that seems to trend pretty left. I also follow Noah Smith @Noahpinion on twitter, who is an economics PhD and a writer for Bloomberg that also has a lot of left-leaning opinions. However, only Noah Smith has a regular blog and column presence, and it seems to me that the most popular blogger/economists are of the libertarian variety.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Brad DeLong. Another blogger, Steve Randy Waldman, writes about economics from a left-wing perspective, but he is not, as far as I know, someone with an economics degree.

    • Uribe says:

      Adam Ozimek @ModeledBehavior is a great follow. Not sure if he is center-right or center-left. Along with Karl Smith @karlbykarlsmith (who might count as Libertarian-leaning), Ozimek wrote the defunct blog Modeled Behavior.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I’m not sure if it’s “high-caliber” enough since he’s not an academic, but my favorite left-wing economic policy blogger is Matt Bruenig. He runs a “think tank” which is really just his personal blog with the occasional guest post (clever idea).

    • Simultan says:

      Robert Skidelsky (@RSkidelsky) is a centre-left Keynesian. He doesn’t keep any active blog, really, but writes quite a lot of articles (and books).

      A Critique of Crisis Theory is a leftist economy blog.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’d recommend the archives of Interfluidity (recommended by AlesZiegler), Daniel Davies (DSquared–Crooked Timber, his own blog, and a bit on Medium), and the Economic Policy Institute.

    • Salentino says:

      Mark Blyth is very left wing by US standards (he’s Scottish, so regular lefty by European standards) – he’s the William R. Rhodes Professor of International Economics at Brown University. He’s very funny and has a great way of making complex subjects accessible.

      He had a bit of a viral hit (in least in my circles) with this video a while back – he starts around the 6 minute mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0&t=360

    • The Scarlet Herring says:

      Thanks, all! I was unintentionally falling into a libertarian bubble, so this should help keep me in touch with the rest of the world.

  5. Aapje says:

    First Japanese diplomatic missions to the USA & Europe

    In 1859, the shogun sent the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the US and in 1862, the first to Europe. A low-level samurai by the name of Fukuzawa Yukichi was part of both missions and rose to great prominence.

    In 1854, at the age of 19, the patriach of the family sent him to Nagasaki, where the Dutch colony of Dejima was located, to study Dutch. He became fully proficient in the language. However, when the shogunate opened up three ports to American and European ships in 1859 and Yukichi visited one of those ports, he discovered that English was the lingua franca of the merchants, rather than Dutch. So Yukichi started to learn English, but was hampered by a lack of teachers and dictionaries. That same year, he traveled on a mission to San Francisco. There, he and a translator both bought a Webster’s dictionary, the first imported into Japan. Two years later, he visited Europe on another mission.

    After he came back, he wrote 10 books on Western culture and institutions, in accessible language, which became best-sellers. This was at a time when there was great turmoil in Japan, with increasing anti-Western sentiment. Yukichi’s influence may have been an important part of convincing the Japanese people to resist Western imperialism through westernization, rather than isolation.

    Yukichi had established a private school to teach Dutch, but he changed this to a school of Western studies. This became the first institute of modern higher education in Japan and still is a prominent university.

    He also wrote an autobiography. I happened upon two Youtube videos with extracts from his biography, of his American trip and his European trip. I would extremely strongly recommend these videos. I found the European video especially wonderful.

    For example, it describes how the Japanese envoy asked merchants in Amsterdam whether foreigners could buy land, to which he got an affirmative answer. Then he asked whether that land could be used to build a fortress, to which the Dutch merchants answered that no Western merchant would fund such a venture. The Dutch merchants didn’t understand the purpose of the question and neither did the envoy understand how ridiculous his idea was.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      It’s worth noting that during the 214-year isolation period of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Dutch were the only Western people who had any trade and diplomatic relations with Japan, to the point that Rangaku, literally “Dutch learning”, became synonymous of Western studies.

    • Erusian says:

      If you like Fukuzawa Yukichi, I really enjoyed Mori Arinori’s book. He was an ambassador to the US so he got a much deeper view and he was really interested in what Japan could learn from American society/economy. Fascinating guy.

      Also, he’s a petty Japanese spirit of education (because he was the guy who founded the modern Japanese education system) and some students propitiate him before tests. (Also, he apparently haunts people.) So a good guy to know.

    • original-internet-explorer says:

      I watched this a few days ago – was great. There is a lot we can learn from Japan’s history – we in the third or fourth globalization from their position. I always wanted to talk about why these cycles exist.

      I happened upon the discovery of Doggerland – a world very different to our own. There was a proposal to drain the North Sea and make more land in Europe.

      https://flashbak.com/1930-the-plan-to-drain-and-dam-the-north-sea-and-create-doggerland-8171/

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DECwfQQqRzo

      • Aapje says:

        That proposal seems a bit naive. They assume that they can block The Netherlands and Germany off from direct access to the North Sea, but aren’t even willing to block London off, while still having other North Sea ports.

        • original-internet-explorer says:

          These eminent scientists are English!

          It looks like a response to the worry about overpopulation in the 1930s. Solved by suburbs and cars but Zubrin mentions at Mars Society talks the compulsion for war by fears of scarcity in the prewar years.

          I like the idea of reclaiming land from the sea – I sent emails to our Property Registration Authority and they updated me that I can register with them any projects producing new extensions to our island if it is between the low and high tide marks.

  6. Aapje says:

    Breaking news: The New York Times will switch to Dutch, to improve the quality of their paper with Dutch fixed expressions

    ‘Daar zit geen woord Frans bij’ = That doesn’t include a French word

    Can be used to describe a crude and direct statement. Comes from the time when the elite spoke French, so that was the fancy language, while the lower classes spoke Dutch, more crudely.

    ‘Daar kun je donder op zeggen’ = You can say thunder on it

    It’s certainly (not) going to happen. Etymology quite unclear.

    ‘Daar zal geen haan naar kraaien’ = No rooster will crow for it

    No one will make a fuss about it.

    ‘De dans onspringen’ = Jump out of the dance

    Get away with something or escape a bad faith. For example, a criminal who never gets caught or a someone who survives a disaster.

    This refers to the medieval allegorical dance of death, which was used to remind people that no matter the wealth or power people may obtain, death comes for them all. In German, this is the Totentanz and in French, the Danse Macabre. The allegory also reminds people of the capriciousness of death, which can come at any age and any time.

    The allegory was often depicted by people interspersed with skeletons or corpses.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Can be used to describe a crude and direct statement. Comes from the time when the elite spoke French, so that was the fancy language, while the lower classes spoke Dutch, more crudely.

      That’s funny; in England, you say “Pardon my French” if you swear.

      • bullseye says:

        Which is strange, because lots of our words come from French but not our swear words.

        • AlexanderTheGrand says:

          Pardon my french is actually a joke — the idea being that you’re pretending that you don’t mean to actually be cursing, you’re just trying (and failing) to use a French word in your sentence. Plausible deniability — as far as they know, maybe “asshole” means “great guy” in French.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Some do. Shit, fuck and bollocks aren’t French (though I have seen the latter humorously misspelled as ‘bolleaux’) but piss, cunt and bugger are.

  7. Nicholas Weininger says:

    Is coached skill-building practice a recognized form of therapy? If not, should it be (or should it be more of one)?

    Motivation for the question: I’ve found that practicing my singing technique has been extremely helpful for my mood and emotional stability during the past few months of restricted social life and worldwide tumult. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that there’s a lot of similarity between my singing routine and a routine of weekly therapy and daily meditation practice. Namely, every day I spend some time on a physical and mental practice that forces me to attend closely to how I’m acting and what I’m perceiving in the moment, and set aside transient thoughts, obsessions with the news, etc; and every week I meet with someone who coaches me in a caring and helpful way (in my case I’m lucky to have an excellent Zoom voice teacher, who I would recommend but sadly her studio is full for now AIUI).

    Is this class of learning practice deliberately prescribed as a mental health aid? If not, I wonder if it could be helpful to people who don’t respond well to more traditional therapy and meditation. The cost in money and time is similar, and the skill improvement is a nice collateral benefit.

    Also, if others have observed that their learning practice(s) has/have/have had similarly sustaining effects on their mental health, I’d be interested to hear what kinds of skills you’re learning or have learned that have that effect, and what learning practices you follow(ed), since I’d like to incorporate more such practices into my life in the longer term.

    • jgr314 says:

      I have done a lot of coached skill building and seen a lot of it for my 3 children. Putting aside purely “standard” academic study, the following studies sometimes have had a therapeutic effect: improv practice, go (aka weiqi/baduk), music (piano and violin), sports (swimming, running, soccer, weightlifting). However, I have seen cases of individual sessions for all of the above activities where the skill-building intensified stress or frustration. Most people have encountered the stereotype of the yelling pushy coach or parent where the session ends with a kid in tears. Even if the coach is very empathetic and prioritizes the therapeutic effect, however, it is pretty common for a learner to get stuck on something frustrated by it.

      That said, I have found skill building an anchor for personal sanity during this period. Seeing progress in some ability is the most positive indication that I’m not merely repeating each day again and again. Also, scheduled times for practice and lesson add structure to a day that would otherwise be swallowed up in a black hole of [I don’t know/FB/SSC/minor chores].

    • a real dog says:

      Rock climbing, specifically bouldering. It’s impossible to be anywhere other than in the present moment as you’re constantly controlling balance / friction / body tension, makes you feel really “in the body” so to speak, there’s a very visceral feeling of achievement, the endorphins from exertion don’t hurt either. Great way to recharge and stabilize mood.

      No coaching though, I find it pretty stressful – I’d rather just climb with more experienced friends and explore the problems together. Social interaction is a bit draining, with randoms even more so, and being able to just go to an indoor climbing gym and fuck around on the boulder walls on my own schedule is fantastic.

  8. GoneAnon says:

    Hi all,

    I’m going to post this once and once only. I used to post here under M_a_t_t_M. I’d like to politely request that you please no longer refer to me under that name. I apologize in advance for any confusion or inconvenience this may cause.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Thanks for the note so we don’t wonder what’s happened to you – I’ve appreciated reading your comments, and you provide a very valuable perspective.

      If you care to comment, should I assume it’s the recently-discussed topic that’s led you to go more anon?

      • GoneAnon says:

        Yes. To be clear, I am aware of no specific threat towards me or anyone else. Just seems like an easy and low-cost way to maybe proactively protect myself just a tiny bit.

    • Plumber says:

      Glad to have you still around, and given my collosal self doxing I’ve been thinking of going as “Al E. S. Fakinaminghave” instead.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I strongly suggest The Hero Who Fights Turtles instead.
        Or just one of the two plumber brothers’s names if you decide long handles are inconvenient.

    • Matthew A says:

      If you don’t mind me asking, did you register a new account or just change the display name in your profile? Do you know of the benefits/costs of one approach vs. the other?

      (I did the latter recently.)

      • GoneAnon says:

        I registered a new account, because I didn’t know the other thing was possible!

        • Nick says:

          By the way, if you’re going to switch to a new username, shouldn’t you pick something innocuous instead of one that screams “I have something to hide”??

  9. Plumber says:

    There’s been lots of posts on “Affirmative Action” lately (usually in the context of elite private University racial preferences for admissions i.e. Harvard) but I’m curious what the commentariet thinks about neighborhood based preferences instead.

    Back in the early ’90’s it was noticed that despite the City of San Francisco Public Works “corporation yard” being in a then majority black neighborhood of San Francisco the vast majority of employees were Asian and white (in those days relatives of current workers and those who’s usually immigrant families bribed the hiring managers were overwhelmingly who secured employment) and a special neighborhood “youth employment program” to give some entry level city jobs just to those who lived in the poorer (and back then majority black) neighborhoods was started, also “local hire” preferences for big construction projects in those neighborhoods were made (a certain percentage of workers had to be from the neighborhood), as it happens the white guy who was later the Public Works Steamfitter supervisor for many years lived in the then majority black Hunters Point neighborhood and became one of the “local hires”, and he told me he was treated with more suspicioun (“Do you really live in the neighborhood?) because he was white, but he got the construction job nevertheless, starting the job experience which qualified him for a city position (he later got into the city Steamfitter shop by doing well on the written and hands on tests and fulfilling the work experience requirements). In my own experience I’ve been on a couple of jobs where a young lady with a clipboard would come around and ask “What zip code do you live in?”, no other documentation was asked for, but I lived in Oakland not in the neighborhood of the job site and maybe if I did proof would be asked for. 

    Most of the neighborhood preference city jobs are for planting trees, fixing sidewalks, and cleaning the streets, one of my smartest (in the sense of coming up with ideas of how to handle broken things in the building, academically he didn’t get his high school diploma equivalent until he was in his 40’s) was hired this way and I’m grateful he was, his fate and that of his brother who was too old for the program have been dramatically different, he got a written commendation for keeping his assigned streets particularly clean by the then Mayor (now our Govenor), his brother has been in and out of jail for decades, only one data point but it’s the one thst comes to my mind the most. Hunters Point isn’t majority black anymore (it’s a bit more white, and a lot more Asian and Hispanic) but when I last worked out of the “yard” eight years ago neighborhood hires were still mostly young black men.

    The other “youth employment program” are paid internships of City College and San Francisco State students for clipboard carrying jobs and they mostly have Asian faces and California accents. Both the college interns and the neighborhood hires seem friendly, polite, and grateful for the jobs, traits often not shared by we that tested in.

    Often the dig against University ‘affirmative action’ admissions is that it’s too often upper class non-white benefiting instead of lower class one’s, and lower class whites are shut out, I know that racial admission preferences are prohibited by law for California public colleges, but I heard that those colleges tried to do a work around to promote “diversity” and tried economic preferences, with the result that more children of eastern European and Vietnamese immigrants were enrolled, which changed the ethnic backgrounds but didn’t move the racial makeup of students hardly at all. 

    As it is a high percentage of single parent households in a neighborhood correlates with a lot of social ills (poverty, imprisonment, etc.) whatever the race of folks living there (and if her kids are still under six years old moving the single mother and her children to a neighborhood with more dual parents residing with the kids her kids are then less likely to be jailed or poor as adults), a man having a steady job increases the likelihood that he will be married to and live with his children’s mother, which seems a good reason to encourage neighborhood based affirmative action as the benefits extend to beyond just those hired, sort of gentrification without displacement (at first, after a neighborhood improves enough the free market makes some displacement inevitable), after the neighborhood has “upscaled” enough just make some other neighborhood get hiring preferences instead. Obviously this could be gamed, and more “privileged” parents could buy property in “underprivileged” neighborhoods so their kids could get hired, but in practice? Maybe because the program isn’t that well publicized, or maybe because the actual jobs aren’t that high status I’ve never noticed anyone with those jobs seeming to have an upper class background, but even if a few were so what? The majority still came from lower class backgrounds and were raised up (unlike Harvard’s AA which I’ve read mostly benefits upper class non-whites children).

    Okay, other then the usual anarchist/libertarian “please have less government actions overall” objections, what are the flaws with neighborhood based AA? Sure some poor folks don’t live in poorer neighborhoods, but usually those kids (on average) do better as adults (if they moved there before they were six years old). The other objection I’ve seen is that “merit” based hires do better work, and maybe they do somewhere, but in the jobs I’ve seen (where the test results are public record) better test scores don’t seem to correlate much (if at all) with better job performance (with the caveat that the minimum requirements are the same for the jobs I’ve seen).

    Besides the “no AA” option, any other objections to neighborhood based hiring preferences as opposed to economic and racially based ones?

    • Erusian says:

      My issue with AA is that it turns things into a checklist and creates weird incentives and realities on the ground. Imagine a world where Obama’s kids weren’t the daughters of a prominent politician: just a couple of very well off lawyers from Chicago. Their daughters (as black women) would still get a huge boost against a white man who’d grown up homeless in the poorest part of Appalachia and somehow worked his way through the same school to the same SAT scores. Because being homeless or from poor areas is not on the checklist but gender and skin color is, the black daughter of a multimillionaire gets a boost up due to her lack of privilege and the homeless white man gets dinged for his privilege. Yet I think everyone intuitively understands that a black woman can have more privilege than a white man along dimensions other than gender and race.

      I suspect neighborhood based AA would create similar distortions. Imagine rich people suddenly buying land in a poor county in Appalachia because it has the best AA score. Etc. That said, I’m not sure I’m against the idea in net. In particular, I’ve long thought that the Federal bureaucracy should be legally required to (within a certain tolerance) represent each state. Like, Iowa has about 1% of the US population so it should be required that 1% of Federal bureaucrat jobs or Federal purchases go to Iowans (or something to that effect). This guarantees the bureaucracy has ties to everywhere in the country (and perhaps could spread some of those good paying Federal jobs away from the wealthy coasts).

      • bean says:

        Like, Iowa has about 1% of the US population so it should be required that 1% of Federal bureaucrat jobs or Federal purchases go to Iowans (or something to that effect). This guarantees the bureaucracy has ties to everywhere in the country (and perhaps could spread some of those good paying Federal jobs away from the wealthy coasts).

        This already happens a lot. Look at any major defense program, and you’ve got subcontractors selected essentially on the basis of which congressional district they’re in. The JSF is a particularly egregious example, although I can’t remember the numbers offhand.

        • Erusian says:

          In procurement sure, but those are subcontractors, meaning it runs through DC corporations that skim. And I know for a fact the bureaucracy is heavily on the coast. Making it formal would give a boost to push those corporations away from DC and into various parts of the nation.

      • ana53294 says:

        This happens in the EU. Some countries regularly push their quotas and some underfill them, depending on two factors: where the EU institutions are (Belgians are overrepresented in most institutions), and how much esteem the nation has for the civil service.

        But the thing with nationality is, a Spaniard who’s lived in Brussels for most of his life doesn’t stop being a Spaniard. How long is an Iowan an Iowan once they start living in California? Especially if they studied in UC Berkley? What makes an Iowan an Iowan? Being born there? Living there for X years? Living there for the last Y years?

        US states are not different enough to preserve some kind of stable culture even when you haven’t lived in your home state all your adult life. European countries have stabler national identities. And deeper roots (less internal migration). Most Spaniards are Spaniards with a lot of generations back. Americans have moved around too much to establish some kind of identity (with exceptions; apparently the poor in Appalachia are not that mobile?).

        EDIT: my point is, unless you also make sure that 1% of federal bureaus are located in Iowa, the quotas won’t help much, because a young Iowan who went to DC to climb the ranks, probably won’t be an Iowan once they reach the really senior positions; they’ll be a DC person/critter.

        • bean says:

          I (American) read the OP as “1% of federal jobs have to be in Iowa”, because state identity is about 75% based on where you are now. I have in turn considered myself a Missourian, a Washingtonian, a Californian (more or less) and now an Oklahoman. I’d guess that was the intended reading.

          • ana53294 says:

            Maybe that’s what he meant, although as worded, it doesn’t sound like that to me.

            I’ve never stopped being Basque, wherever I lived. I didn’t feel Swedish when I lived there, I don’t feel British living in the UK. But then, things are different in the US.

            There are many, many issues with distributing the EU bodies throughout the EU. It seems to be really, really hard to take an institution away from a place, because once an institution is located there, like the European medicines agency, all the lobbies, scientific bodies and pharma companies that want to be close there move there. In the EU, at least, new entrants get an institution only when a new institution is created. And now that Brexit is happening. Otherwise, the states that have those institutions fight really, really hard to keep them.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      How well do zip code boundaries actually correlate with the boundaries of neighborhoods? Because I don’t know that you’re going to get much more fine-grained information than “zip code of residence” if you’re a college in upstate New York and you’re fielding graduates from all over the United States.

    • drunkfish says:

      An obvious argument that comes to mind is that if your primary goal is racial equality, doing it by neighborhood will simply do a worse job of that. Neighborhood is a decent proxy for race, but distinctly imperfect (as you mention), so if my goal is to fix specifically racial disparities, it’s worse than filtering by race.

      • keaswaran says:

        But I think that’s the point – you’re *not* trying to fix *just* racial disparities. You can fix racial disparities by hiring a bunch of children of Nigerian and Caribbean kleptocrats, but you don’t actually help the descendants of slaves that way.

        Neighborhoods are usually segregated enough by both race and income that this will prevent the program from getting intercepted by privileged outsiders who happen to be members of the race that is generally underprivileged.

    • salvorhardin says:

      I’ve heard anecdotally that the SFUSD diversity preference program is gamed in the way you suggest. When parents pick their school preferences for the choice lottery, priority in satisfying those preferences goes to those from designated disadvantaged neighborhoods, which IIRC was instituted as a replacement for an older system of explicit racial diversity preferences that was ruled illegal. And in aggregate the designated neighborhoods do contain most of the kids who you’d want to make sure get a leg up by having a better chance to go to the best public schools in the city.

      But within the neighborhoods designated as disadvantaged there are gentrifying blocks which “aren’t so bad.” And thus the same sort of savvy, mostly white and affluent, parents who are most effective at gaming the choice system in other ways can and do find out where those blocks are and buy/rent housing there to have a better shot at getting their kids into the schools they want.

      I agree that this probably doesn’t happen for government job preferences, because access to those jobs doesn’t have the same emotional weight among effective system-gamers as access to the best (or perceived best) schools for their kids.

    • DinoNerd says:

      This fits my biases and preconceptions beautifully.

      I’m sure I could poke logical holes in it – nothing’s perfect – but I’m not really motivated to do so.

    • cassander says:

      if you want to help people who are poor, only have one parent, grew up in families with unemployed parents, etc. why not just target those things individually and directly rather than relying on a rough proxy? What you suggest seems like it would generate endless squabbling over boundaries, fail to help the people that are still struggling as their neighborhoods transition, and discourage people from moving out of shitty areas.

      • salvorhardin says:

        There’s some evidence to suggest that living in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty confers disadvantages that aren’t fully captured by looking at your own family circumstances, so you need to do something like neighborhood targeting in order to get at those networking effects.

        • cassander says:

          let’s take that as a given. Are we going to claim the harm of that is worse than the harm of all the political problems that would be caused by such non-specific targeting of aid? that seems unlikely to me.

      • keaswaran says:

        It’s because you don’t *just* want to do that. You want to make sure that city government programs targeting a neighborhood are actually staffed by people from that neighborhood. As OP said, if you’re doing something like trimming the street trees, then it’s probably a really good idea that some of the people involved in the trimming are people who actually walk past those trees every day.

        As a second benefit, this also means that the poor people in a neighborhood don’t see the creation of a bunch of good new jobs that then go to outsiders – they can instead see the jobs going to people they’ve known in the neighborhood for a while. And if there’s a racial identity to the neighborhood (which there usually is, for American neighborhoods), then these jobs will likely be filled by people who match the identity.

    • Ketil says:

      Besides the “no AA” option, any other objections to neighborhood based hiring preferences as opposed to economic and racially based ones?

      I would much prefer actions that improve the poor neighborhoods (or other causes of disadvantage) to actions that try to mitigate disadvantages after the fact. In other words, reducing crime and improving schools in poor neighborhoods and fight discrimination on race, religion or sex is preferable to trying to plaster over the problem by having quotas at Harvard. Affirmative action (like most identity politics) seem aimed at evening the averages between groups by privileging the already privileged. It would also have the political advantage¹ of not explicitly excluding anybody from benefits based on race or sex.

      Like Erusian points out, a set of complex rules of benefits and advantages is easily gamed, and the already resourceful are always better at gaming. Thus, these systems tends not to help the actually disadvantaged much, even those in the disadvantaged group.

      ¹ Or maybe it is a disadvantage, since to be a successful movement you need an outgroup. By discriminating a group, you will conveniently get objections to your policy from grumpy conservatives – which you can then attack.

    • sharper13 says:

      First, you’d need to start with what problem you’re trying to solve with the proposed policy. I didn’t actually see a mention of that in your post, which makes it pretty difficult to evaluate the policy in terms of how likely it is to achieve it’s goals.

      But in general terms, as others have noted, location-based benefits are much easier for wealthier folks to game than others, so that would have to be taken into account, whatever the desired goals.

  10. hilltop says:

    Hi,

    When the FBI does a interview they do not record the meeting but instead produce a written report (an FD-302). This seems so amateurish as to leave me very confused. Can someone steelman this practice for me?

    • drunkfish says:

      Steelmanning “not amateurish”, although possibly strawmanning “the FBI are benevolent”: Presumably it’s much easier to control the narrative in a written transcript than a recording. Audio recordings are only best if the goal is actually to record everything that was said. If they want to control “what was said” then a written transcript is the obvious choice.

    • ECD says:

      Depends on circumstances, but a written report is often better than a recording (especially historically when you needed literal tape medium). The most obvious reason in modern circumstances is the ability to do keyword searches. Historically it’s more that no one has time to sit through a million hours of tape to get to ‘she was very nice but didn’t know anything.’

      Now, they could do both, but that has significant costs in time, storage and administrative overhead (everything needs to be kept for a very long time and may need to be available via FOIA or discovery, if it’s created). That’s without getting into people who don’t want to talk if they’re being recorded.

      Now, that said, that doesn’t prevent doing both (though that will take extra time) I think the most likely explanation is that the agencies haven’t yet adapted to cheaper digital storage and invested in the needed speech-to-text software to make recordings actually useful for anything beyond ‘the person interviewed has changed their story.’ That is a problem, but it’s historically one that was resolved by having the agent testify under oath and the Judge/Jury almost certainly believe them. If that’s changing, we may well see more such precautions.

    • Well... says:

      Recordings get you an audio file. There are computer programs that can take an audio file and turn it into a transcript, but there are always errors. Those errors would need to be detected and corrected by a human who is both reading the transcript and listening to the audio file. That is a tedious process and it means going from interview to transcript takes twice as long at the very least (because the interview essentially has to be “conducted” twice: first in real life and second played back as a recording) but likely longer because some passages will have to be listened to multiple times. Better just to have the interviewer or an assistant take down what is said as best they can while the interview is being conducted. AFAIK that’s the way it’s often done in other professions that require accurate records of what people said during interviews, such as in the social sciences.

    • digbyforever says:

      Question: is an FD-302 only produced for meetings taken at an FBI office, or is it for any interview? For example, if the FBI goes to a person’s house and interviews them, I assume they produce an FD-302. So I can imagine that it may be impractical at best to record an interview when they are not in a controlled environment like an FBI field office. It would be difficult in a person’s house, and I imagine even more difficult if they are just meeting a person at a coffee shop or restaurant. Further, I don’t think it’s crazy to assume that a person may be more forthcoming if they are not being actively recorded (even though the practical distinction in terms of evidence might not be much), which of course works in the FBI’s favor. Of course, much like bodycams, until recently it would have been impossible for the FBI to actually record all interviews, or even any interviews done outside an FBI office, so perhaps it’s something of a tech holdover.

    • albatross11 says:

      They don’t want a videotape of the interrogation for the same reason any other police agency wouldn’t want it–they understand that a full recording of the interrogation will make their job harder. That may be because they want to make things up that you “said” to accuse you of lying to them, or because they don’t want the judge or jury to see what lies, threats, promises, or other pressure were used to get you to say something incriminating. This isn’t amateurish at all, just evil.

    • John Schilling says:

      People seem to be treating this as an either-or, and trying to justify transcripts as being at least sometimes better than recordings. But, if you’re going to the bother of writing a transcript, the marginal cost of creating a recording as well is very small.

      Also, there’s no transcript. The FD-302 is a report, written after the interview, that does not even purport to be a transcript and contains only a summary of what the FBI considers to be the important parts of the interview, after they’ve had time to decide what their strategy going forward is going to be. Reasons why they might not want to have a recording on file as well, are left as an exercise for the cynic.

    • MilesM says:

      The FBI has an explicit policy discouraging recordings, their justification for it is:

      “First, the presence of recording equipment may interfere with and undermine the successful rapport-building interviewing technique which the FBI practices.

      Second, FBI agents have successfully testified to custodial defendants’ statements for generations with only occasional, and rarely successful, challenges.

      Third, as all experienced investigators and prosecutors know, perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants. Initial resistance may be interpreted as involuntariness and misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may appear to be unfair deceit.

      Finally, there are 56 fields [sic] offices and over 400 resident agencies in the FBI. A requirement to record all custodial interviews throughout the agency would not only involve massive logistic and transcription support but would also create unnecessary obstacles to the admissibility of lawfully obtained statements, which through inadvertence or circumstances beyond control of the interviewing agents, could not be recorded.”

      Full text of the relevant FBI memorandum: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/20070402_FBI_Memo.pdf

      So as drunkfish points out, the argument that they’re “amateurish” is pretty easy to dispense with. They know exactly what they’re doing.

      • matkoniecz says:

        misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may appear to be unfair deceit

        “may appear”

        So, it done to make lying easier. Nice find, thanks for linking it.

        • Clutzy says:

          The irony intrinsic in the 302 guidelines is that it suggests that the proper thing for anyone to do after an FBI interview is to write a contemporaneous memo of their own stating the FBI agents engaged in physical intimidation, lied several times, made verbal threats, etc. It doesn’t matter if this is true, the FBI guidelines imply it is, so even if they deny it you point to the guidelines at trial, point to your memo, and any reasonable jury will think the FBI basically tortured you.

          • matkoniecz says:

            Though smart way would be to avoid confabulating, after all audio recording may suddenly appear to be existing!

  11. meh says:

    What are some *famous* examples of people changing some previous held belief?
    Could be from any realm (e.g. social issues, economics, politics, math, science, the arts, morality, religion, philosophy)

    How was their support of original belief held against them?

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      Religiously, there are dozens of stories of pagan rulers converting to Christianity. Regarding heretics, there is Arius, of the Arian heresy, who was on his way to Constantinople to recant when he died. Christians are apparently happy that he did not get the chance to recant? Does not seem very charitable but he did cause plenty of problems for the church.

      Also famously, Siddhartha and many other religious founders switched from their initial religions.

      You probably mean something like an oil baron wholeheartedly switching to green energy, and not doing so for cynical reasons, but I don’t know any examples of that.

      Maybe Gorbachev? From premier of the Soviet Union to appearing in a Burger King commercial? Roe from Roe v. Wade switching to pro-life activist? Lots of these examples are going to be uncharitable, since from the outside it could look like opportunism instead of genuine changes in belief.

      Hillary voting on the Iraq War? How CW do you want it?

      • yodelyak says:

        See twitter user @JackKerfoot for a former oil man who now spends his time and his own money stumping for green energy. Or, actually, lots of other people. T. Boone Pickens comes to mind also.

    • salvorhardin says:

      The 20th C saw a bunch of former Communists become zealous anti-Communists (and even more former Communists become disillusioned but not particularly zealously anti-Communist liberals). Whittaker Chambers and Arthur Koestler come to mind, but one could make a much longer list. In general their conversions were seen as sincere and they were not, AFAIK, punished for having once been Communist; if anything their anti-Communism probably was a greater social burden on them.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        I forgot about Camus. He dropped communism when the revelations about the gulags came out. His conversion caused him social harm.

      • Frank Meyer, senior editor of National Review, was an ex-communist.

        I met Arianna Stassinopoulos at a Mont Pelerin meeting a very long time ago. She was a bright and somewhat unconventional conservative who had written a book titled The Female Woman.

        Her married name is Huffington.

    • Bobobob says:

      Perhaps not as famous as you’d want, but Lee Smolin started out as a string theorist, and then wrote books lambasting string theory.

    • Well... says:

      Dr. Seuss (Theodore Giesel) went from being pretty anti-Japanese to writing a book that defended the post-WWII Japanese in allegory. I don’t know how or whether Dr. Seuss’s support for, e.g. Japanese internment was held against him.

      Malcolm X is another famous example: he went from being pro-black/anti-white to (Muslim and) kinda post-racial. He was assassinated by people who were salty at his post-racial beliefs.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Maajid Nawaz went from member of an Islamic terrorist group to founder of a counter-extremism think tank. But maybe he’s not famous enough by your standards.

      Trump was a democrat through the 80s and 90s, but I’m not sure if he holds any beliefs aside from he’s awesome and his enemies are losers.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Saint Paul.

    • DeWitt says:

      Elizabeth Warren seems to count, though I can’t say how much of her shift to becoming a democrat was also predicated on changing her beliefs.

      Gandhi was a highly avid supporter of the British Empire before he became a figure central to India’s independence from it, too.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Politicians changing parties between their youth and their main period of ambition seems common enough to be unremarkable. Reagan started as a Democrat and Hillary Clinton as a Goldwater Girl.

        • bullseye says:

          I wouldn’t count Clinton; she told some people she supported Goldwater, but she was too young to vote, and she didn’t volunteer for his campaign or anything like that.

        • keaswaran says:

          I believe that Warren was in her late 40’s or early 50’s before she stopped registering as a Republican.

    • SamChevre says:

      Many saints changed dramatically–just off the top of my head, St Augustine, St Francis, St Ignatius Loyola.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This. Many Catholic Saints are two-legged examples of Mistake Theory. “Oops, wrong beliefs were leading to wrong actions! Now I’ll turn my life around, by God!”
        The Legend of Saint Christopher goes that he was a giant highwayman who changed his beliefs about who the best leader is (from Some Guy he was following to Satan to Christ), which shows that this is a desired pattern rather than an accidental accumulation of historical facts.

    • Immortal Lurker says:

      Wittgenstein pivoted so hard his works are divided into “early” and “late”, with the late works almost completely rejecting his earlier.

  12. Belisaurus Rex says:

    So I’ve heard the meme that “the Confederacy was only around for 4 years, therefore why do we still have statues up”. I have a slight problem with this for two reasons. First, plenty of famous governments/empires fell very quickly. Napoleon and Alexander both had their empires for less than a decade, yet both still have statues and are remembered today (despite their negative traits), so it seems incorrect to conflate temporal length with importance or relevance or legitimacy.

    Second, it seems disingenuous to say that the Confederacy was only around for four years and at the same time blame Confederates for events both before and after those four years.

    Not to defend the statues or the Confederacy, but it’s just the argument that bothers me. Aren’t there a million better ways to argue against Confederate statues? Are memes really that hard to make? Is this the best people can do?

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Napoleon and Alexander both had generals who went on to form long lasting dynasties. House Napoleon even got a round 2 and he was the longest reigning monarch since the sun king. So more memetic staying power within in their own domains (culture/ruling), I think, and longer time period that can be attributed to their influence. Their respective associated ideologies (liberalism and Hellenism) both got spread far and wide by their armies. Confederate ideology spread nowhere.

      I know some members of the Confederacy moved to Brazil but I’ve never heard of what they did once they got there.

      I get what you’re saying but I think your examples actually make the meme more salient for me.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        If there wasn’t a long-lasting ideological effect, then why is the issue still fought over today?

        Whatever happened to all those Confederates after the war? Didn’t they all go on to have exactly the same prestigious political careers (and representation in government) that they had before the war? Isn’t that exactly why Reconstruction failed?

        Edit: Maybe I am the one confused here, but it just seems like the weakest possible argument you could make against the Confederacy is that it didn’t last very long.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          I’ll say I didn’t have a real sense in my head for how long the confederacy lasted so at least for me the meme did trigger something which is all you can ask of a meme. I think like any meme in circulation it’s primarily for reinforcing existing beliefs rather than converting others.

          Admittedly my first thought was they sure went through a lot of flags for such a short run and they were all bad enough nobody really uses them.

        • keaswaran says:

          It took the Compromise of 1877 to put most of those Confederates back in power. Perhaps this was likely to happen all along, as witnessed by the fact that allies of these confederates were able to make the presidential election uncertain enough that the compromise was seen as needed by the Hayes team. But for several years, Reconstruction seemed like it was going to keep these Confederates out of power for the rest of their lives.

    • Ttar says:

      It really depends on what the point of a statue is. It seems like the point of them is to venerate the subject. If so, probably best to remove them all.

    • samboy says:

      Keep in mind that the argument is part of a larger emotional CW appeal. It goes like this:

      – The statues were put up in the 20th century to support segregation and Jim Crow laws
      – The Confederacy those statues honors was a pathetic attempt at a nation which lasted just over four years (Feb 1861 – April 1865)
      – So, are we honoring the statues to honor a pathetic shorted-lived attempt at a nation, or for other more nefarious reasons

      • Talexander Urok says:

        The statues were put up in the 20th century to support segregation and Jim Crow laws

        Notably missing from that link was any quotes from the people who actually put the monuments up. What did they say about their intentions? It tells you there’s something sinister about the monuments not being built until 1900. But that’s the general pattern for war monuments. They aren’t built right after the war, they’re built much later, when the veterans have gotten old. If they were built in the 1920s, I’m sure you’d hear about how ‘isn’t it strange they were built in the same decade the KKK was active?’

        So, are we honoring the statues to honor a pathetic shorted-lived attempt at a nation,

        The people who put them up didn’t consider it a “pathetic shorted-lived attempt at a nation,” so the whole comparison is invalid.

        • samboy says:

          Here is some data for when Union monuments were built, based on me scraping year numbers from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Union_Civil_War_monuments_and_memorials

          186X ################################
          187X ###########################
          188X ##################################
          189X ##########################
          191X ##########################
          192X #################
          193X #######
          194X ###
          195X ###
          196X ######
          197X #####
          198X ######
          199X ####

          The corresponding numbers for Confederate monuments can be seen at https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/com_whose_heritage.pdf on pages 14 and 15.

          The general impression I get is that they built a lot of Union statues in the 1800s, but the Confederate statues were mostly built in the 1910s

          Also, while we did have a higher peak in the 1960s with Union statues, probably because of the centennial of the Civil War, it was lower than the corresponding Confederate peak, and has remained more steady than the 1960s uptick in southern statues built.

          We can come up with a bunch of reasons why the southern states all of a sudden built a bunch of Confederate statues in the 1910s, but it’s not a normal pattern of how statues are built, since the pattern is very different from the control condition (Union statues).

          In terms of the wording “pathetic”, that’s the CW argument being made in that meme. It’s a culture war emotional appeal, and I don’t like having long discussions about those kinds of things here at SSC. I only brought it up to directly answer a question, and made it clear it was an emotional CW appeal, not a logical argument.

        • samboy says:

          Notably missing from that link was any quotes from the people who actually put the monuments up

          To add to what I said that Confederates monuments were added in a different pattern than Union monuments (i.e. a big peak of new Confederate monuments in the 1910s), I also found an article with the dedication text to one of the Confederate monuments from 1906. In summarizing that speech:

          In Scott’s estimation, Confederate soldiers’ greatest achievement came not during the Civil War, but during Reconstruction, when they ensured, through force of arms, that black people would remain subjugated.

          During the speech, Scott made reference to a magazine article. The actual 1906 English in that referenced article is flowery, but it reads like what we call “white supremacist” writing today:

          [Some say] the difference between the White Man and the Black Man is much less considerable than is ordinarily supposed, and that the only real obstacle in the negro’s way is that—“He has never been given a chance!”—For myself, after visiting the black man in his own house, I come back with a decided impression that this is the sheerest of delusions

          Another case: The speech dedicating a statue in North Carolina (Possible paywall warning: Washington Post) from 1913. In that speech, we have this whopper:

          I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds

          So, yeah, they were at times pretty direct about what philosophy they were espousing when erecting those Confederate statues.

          • matkoniecz says:

            The university told the News and Observer in Raleigh that they disagreed with Cooper’s legal analysis and believed that removing the statue would violate a 2015 law that forbids taking down public monuments without the approval of the North Carolina Historical Commission.

            This mentioned law seems like a very stupid idea.

          • keaswaran says:

            Of course, that 2015 law was designed precisely for circumstances like this. Some carpetbaggers might want to remove a Confederate statue, and the point of the law is to make sure that they have to run it by a bunch of old white people who have lived in the state for many decades first.

        • SamChevre says:

          I would argue that the most helpful framework for thinking about many statues of Confederate leaders (not the memorials to soldiers from the town) is that they are as much anti-colonial statues put up post-Redemption as “remember the war” statues.

          I think it rather misses the point, when thinking of the statue of James Connolly in Dublin, to note that the Easter Rising failed, or that Sinn Fein was at times brutal to some people. Similarly, it rather misses the point of a statue of Forrest to note that the Confederacy was short-lived, and that the Redeemers were at times brutal.

      • jewelersshop says:

        In at least some instances (battlefields like Gettysburg, for example), the statues for both sides were there specifically to encourage re-unifying the country. Preserving the union was the point of the war, so the dead of both sides had to be equally honored, otherwise you just have one nation (which is allowed to put up statues) conquering another. I am not speaking to the purposes of every statue (though I agree that looking for quotes from the people who put them up seems the best way to find that out), but the battlefield ones were trying to avoid Round Two by making explicit that We were mourning Our dead and honoring their bravery, instead of victors mourning their losses while rejoicing in the death and defeat of the other side (which is a good recipe for trouble when the latter’s orphans grow up). In other words, battlefield Confederate monuments were not “yay traitors”, they were “USA monuments because we’re all USA” just like the Union ones.

        Also, as far as city monuments to various regiments go, one did not have to agree with “your” side’s view of slavery to be conscripted to fight for it.

        • GoneAnon says:

          I think a non-trivial portion of the modern progressive movement views the whole idea of “reconciliation” as a colossal mistake, and thinks that yes, the North should have, in fact, treated the south as a conquered and subjugated state and not attempted to receive them back as equals and move on.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Specifically.. The confederacy exempted everyone who had more than 20 slaves from conscription. That is pretty much a ready-made list of people who should have had their property confiscated in-toto.

            Should have been pretty easy to build a narrative around, too. I mean, these are the people who dragged the south into a ruinous war they could not even be bothered to fight in.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I think a non-trivial portion of the modern progressive movement views the whole idea of “reconciliation” as a colossal mistake, and thinks that yes, the North should have, in fact, treated the south as a conquered and subjugated state and not attempted to receive them back as equals and move on.

            The Second Amendment makes it hard to treat Americans as a conquered and subjugated people. I know progressives don’t like the 2A, but what exactly do they think should have happened differently: President Lincoln put armed soldiers in the Capitol Building and 3/4th of State Legislatures that remained in the Union to force them to pass an Amendment nullifying the Second?

          • brmic says:

            The more nuanced version of that is that we learned a lot about how to deal with such a situation since the end of the civil war, and yes, it appears the approach taken there was not good enough.
            The problem with jewelersshop’s rationale is that it’s bothsideism and thus fails to articulate what the correct stance going forward is going to be. That doesn’t mean erasure of the good points of the losing side or ongoing punishment (Treaty of Versailles style). But it means that any statues should have a plaque saying ‘fought bravely for a bad cause’.
            I’d defer to people who have studied this in detail, but in general I think it’s a mistake both to crush the losers economically and to not hold them accountable morally.

          • albatross11 says:

            Remember that the goal of most US leaders after the civil war was to sew the country back together again. Further wrecking the Southern economy, jailing or bankrupting most prominent Southern citizens, and other punitive measures sound like great ways to feel good about how you’re sticking it to the other side, but not such great ways to stitch the North and South back into a single country after a bitter and bloody civil war.

            As it has happened, Southern separatism didn’t continue as such a powerful political force that we had more civil wars, or needed ongoing expensive occupations and security forces to prevent that happening. Instead, Southerners joined the military at high rates for fight *for* the US in various wars. This is probably a much better outcome than we’d have gotten if we’d done everything that now seems appropriate to punish the confederates[1] for slaveowning, defending slavery, rebelling, etc.

            [1] Punishing pro-Union slaveowners was absolutely not on the table. Missouri and Maryland and I think DC all continued to have slavery until it was finally banned nationwide.

          • John Schilling says:

            Should have been pretty easy to build a narrative around, too.

            In roughly the same way that it was easy to build a narrative around “Remember the Alamo, er, Maine, no, Lusitania, oops, Pearl Harbor, wait, now it’s 9/11”.

            Some narratives make it much easier than it ought to be to start a war, or much harder than it ought to be to end one. One of the great miracles of the American Civil War is that it ended. We didn’t get twenty years of bloody insurgency after the clash-of-armies part. A “narrative” based on retribution against the most prominent citizens of the South, would not in fact have had all the other citizens of the South cheering you on in (or even quietly tolerating) your quest for retribution, no matter how much you think it would have been in their class interest to do so.

            The American Civil War ended as peacefully as it did, because the victors agreed to not pursue that sort of retribution. That was almost certainly the right decision then, and in any event it’s too late to change it now.

          • SamChevre says:

            @John Schilling

            We didn’t get twenty years of bloody insurgency after the clash-of-armies part.

            I think that’s only somewhat true: Redemption was much less bloody than it could have been, and didn’t involve guerilla attacks on the North directly–but it was an effective anti-colonial movement and included some amount of violence against both occupying troops and collaborators.

          • John Schilling says:

            Insert my standard rant about people responding to a garden-variety riot or crime wave with “City X has become a War Zone(tm)”, relocated to a 19th-century rural environment.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thomas Jorgenson:

            “I mean, these are the people who dragged the south into a ruinous war they could not even be bothered to fight in.”

            From what I’ve read in Confederate Reckoning, that’s exaggerating. It was top elites that dragged the South into the Civil War, not fairly ordinary rich people.

            Are there any AHs where the Civil War doesn’t happen because the south just lets things drift? My impression is that’s what the majority of white southern men wanted.

          • Randy M says:

            Redemption

            Is this a southern term for that time period? The name I learned in school (CA) was Reconstruction.

          • SamChevre says:

            Redemption vs Reconstruction – it’s not an alternate name for the time period, it’s a different set of events in the same time period. Reconstruction is the military occupation, Redemption the attempt to regain self-rule. Like most anti-colonial movements, it targeted collaborators and local supporters of the occupation more than the occupying troops.

          • bullseye says:

            I went to school in Georgia and I’ve never heard of Redemption either. I knew it happened, but I didn’t know it had a name.

          • Aftagley says:

            I think a non-trivial portion of the modern progressive movement views the whole idea of “reconciliation” as a colossal mistake, and thinks that yes, the North should have, in fact, treated the south as a conquered and subjugated state and not attempted to receive them back as equals and move on.

            This allides the truth, but isn’t quite there. The predominant narrative in progressive circles it the reconstruction was a good thing – it was actively transforming the south into a better nation. Within half a decade roughly 15% of the elected officials in the South were African American- blacks were voting, literacy rates were up and wealth was being accumulated in minority communities.

            Then, in 1877, the Republicans sold out the south to get Hayes elected president and all the progress was reversed, Jim Crow laws were established and the South was left to rot. African Americans spent the century from 1877-1977 with less political representation than they had in 1875.

            Progressives think that the early successes of reconstruction in terms of uplifting minorities from a state of slavery to status as equal citizenship was more important that reconciliation with former slave-masters. I happen to agree.

      • sharper13 says:

        I’m fine with the people who were elected to manage the various government-owned locations following the normal process to remove/change statues/names/etc… and being accountable to their constituents for it.

        Allowing mobs to tear down public (or private, for that matter) property (sometimes in severe ignorance of what they’re destroying) because a politician/media member/leftist on social media/etc… agrees with their stated grievances is entirely a different matter and something which would in an ideal United States be dealt with by law enforcement and anyone participating would be arrested.

        But then, I’m more in favor of constitutions and the rule of law than I am in favor of mob rule.

        The preference of various others on that question is currently being revealed by their statements and actions.

    • meh says:

      it seems disingenuous to say that the Confederacy was only around for four years and at the same time blame Confederates for events both before and after those four years.

      Without taking a stance on the truth of the argument, in general it does not seem contradictory. It sounds like factual statements. ‘X officially existed for 4 years.’ ‘X was a direct cause for event Y’. Why is this a problem? If X did not exist for 4 years, or did not cause event Y, just argue that. But there is no inherent inconsistency.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      It’s a stupid argument, IMO. It’s about the South more generally, which has existed as a regional entity for several centuries. The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia is supposed to represent Southern identity and Southern unity, and they don’t any other symbols for that. Even within the US more broadly, there is still a separate Southern regional identity.

      I suppose the alternate might be flying a flag with a football on it, because the only non-Southern state with a BCS title is Ohio.

      For other people, they want to signal rebellion to authority. The Gadsden flag is probably better, but the EEOC has determined that this also can be considered racist.

      • rumham says:

        For other people, they want to signal rebellion to authority. The Gadsden flag is probably better, but the EEOC has determined that this also can be considered racist.

        I was flabbergasted by that, so I looked into it.

        This decision addressed only the procedural issue of whether the Complainant’s allegations of discrimination should be dismissed or investigated. This decision was not on the merits, did not determine that the Gadsden Flag was racist or discriminatory, and did not ban it.
        Given the procedural nature of this appeal and the fact that no investigative record or evidence had been developed yet, it would have been premature and inappropriate for EEOC to determine, one way or the other, the merits of the U.S. Postal Service’s argument that the Gadsden Flag and its slogan do not have any racial connotations whatsoever.
        EEOC’s decision simply ordered the agency – the U.S. Postal Service – to investigate the allegations. EEOC’s decision made no factual or legal determination on whether discrimination actually occurred.

        Not great, but not as bad as I feared. Not racist now, but it could be ruled so later. The biggest problem is that the ruling clearly does violate the plain meaning of the law, as Title VII only covers harassment that is “severe or pervasive,” not subtle or ambiguous.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      For what it’s worth, I think it’s an effort to lower the status of the Confederacy. It’s not enough to say “the Confederacy was an evil thing built for the purpose of preserving slavery”. No, it’s also got to be “and it was no big deal of country, it only lasted four years.”

      It’s in roughly the same category as talking about the traitor’s flag. My impression is that the people who do that are the same people who don’t like the United States and would be pleased to see it taken over ty Canada or the EU.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        … Eh… Breaking up the federal government and promptly having all fifty states join the union is a plan with at least some features that should appeal to the readership of this blog, assuming you can somehow sell Brussels on the idea. For one thing, far less centralized, and for another, the few areas where Brussels is more hardcore than the US federal government are mostly issues which about everyone here should approve of – The “Tax breaks are subsidies, and are treated with the level of skepticism appropriate for such” thing, for example, and anti trust enforcement with actual teeth.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Can I possibly be the first to say, “Wow, you are so mistaken”? I can’t even with this.

          Even if you could (somehow) convince me that every single American would be better off, even then, No Way In Hell.

          • John Schilling says:

            +1.

            I mean, yeah, some features that would appeal to readers of this blog, but many more that would be pretty much dealbreakers for some of us. And for the 99.999% of Americans who aren’t readers of this blog, even more so.

            There’s no way the Red States sign on the EU’s dotted line, in particular. Which means even the sort of rationalist who would be fine with EU membership as a whole, is going to look at the consequences of a patchwork North America divided among the EU, NeoCSA, and Greater Mexico and say “no, not that please”.

  13. Bobobob says:

    Whoever it was on the last thread that recommended Justified–thanks!

    I usually avoid police/crime shows like the plague, but Justified (at least the five episodes I’ve watched so far) has confounded my expectations. It reminds me a lot of Breaking Bad, in terms of casting, dialogue and story arc, and that is certainly not a bad thing. Plus, it’s funny.

  14. roflc0ptic says:

    Carrying over from another thread:

    @david friedman you’re making a good point here. “Historical materialism” has a lot of baggage that isn’t actually entailed in that definition, and I hadn’t really examined that. In the context of responding to @salvorhardin, I’d say that historical materialism does not have baggage that reliably leads people to commit mass murder, whereas political marxism seems to lead in that direction. For a broader context, I should probably better figure out what I mean by historical materialism/academic marxism. I think I’m accidentally propagating a motte and bailey – thanks for pointing it out!

    @catcube Other than the hyperbole and the tribal tone,I have little disagreement with your comment except this: it shouldn’t be directed at me.

    I’m not a leftist. A decade ago I was a leftist, I am intimately familiar with the left, and support many left aligned goals, but my identity is not bound up in class struggle and seizing the means of production, or fixing inequality, or saving the environment, or being woke. Honestly the first time I heard the word woke, I thought it was self effacing satire. Finally, the left is being self aware about how absurdly self righteous it sounds! Hilarious! Man was I disappointed when I figured out they were serious.

    My purpose in providing that taxonomy wasn’t an attempt to slice categories so as to avoid taking responsibility for “my” side’s bullshit. My point is that what is happening right now is not about having the state own the means of production. Wokeness just doesn’t drive people to advocate for the state controlling the means of production. Even the holy grail of reparations isn’t about the state seizing means of production. It’s just not on the policy agenda.

    Salvorhardin is describing feeling like there’s a physical threat. I think many people here are feeling that to some degree or another. There’s no threat from communists. The communists aren’t going to seize the means of production. We’re still living in “the end of history”.

    There certainly are communists on the left. The serious ones write screeds like this, which in theory I should agree with but I can’t, because they sound several degrees crazier than the woke police. In comparison, they make the rioters seem like they have some chill. They exist mostly in an echo chamber, and spend a great deal of their time in internecine struggle between communist groups, and it makes them irrelevant.

    I’m not saying we’re not in a place where everything feels uncertain. It feels uncertain. Maybe we’ll wobble our way into a civil war, but I really doubt it. I think there’s a floor on how bad this can get. I think it can only get McCarthyism-level bad, and fears that it will get worse than that are unfounded. There will be no gulags.

    • cassander says:

      My point is that what is happening right now is not about having the state own the means of production, and wokeness just doesn’t drive people to advocate for the state controlling the means of production. Even the holy grail of reparations isn’t about the state seizing means of production. It’s just not on the policy agenda.

      (A) And their point was equally that not everyone on the right wants the same things either, and that the degree of nuance you discuss is not extended to the right, that the left frequently lumps together everyone from literal Nazis to anyone just right of Mitch McConnell under a single label, proclaims them dangerous, and tries to cancel them. Seeing that behavior, they find the hair splitting over different types of commies bemusing at best and dangerous at worst.

      (B) I disagree that wokeness isn’t a call to seize the means of production. almost everything the woke want to do takes money, and lots of it. they aren’t going to nationalize industry 1940s UK style, but they will tell industry what to make, and how, and who to sell it to and how much to charge. When the government controls over half the money in the country directly, and more through endless regulations, control the means of production have been effectively seized, even if ownership formally hasn’t. Wokeness is an engine for generating endless new senses of grievance that require ever more intervention to fix.

      I think it can only get McCarthyism-level bad, and fears that it will get worse than that are unfounded. There will be no gulags.

      There are plenty of ways to cause harm that don’t involve gulags. The economic cost alone would be hugely problematic.

      • roflc0ptic says:

        Thanks for your comment on that other thread WRT economic development. I have some questions that I am slowly formulating.

        A. I cannot make the point that I am (correctly or incorrectly) making without some way to specify differences within a 150,000,000 person group. I have not personally inflicted the harms that catcube feels have been perpetrated on him. By casually and incorrectly lumping me into a group and then blaming me for that groups actions, he’s perpetrating the same harm that he’s complaining about.

        I don’t think I’m being ungenerous when I say the position is “other people haven’t tried to understand me, so I’m not going to try to understand you.” This is… a position a person choose to can take. He’s implying he feels fear for his physical wellbeing, “first they came for the communists…” as did salvorhardin. If you insist on treating the other as an unreasoning, uniform and hegemonic mass, then yea, you’re going to feel threatened. Applying some discernment is a path out of that fear.

        B. I totally agree that there are other harms that can and likely will occur. I’m not performing apologetics here. I’m ambivalent about your redefining “seizing the means of production” but I see the point you’re making. I also agree that wokeness is a grievance generation tool, despite the fact that I also think they have some valid points. Really, it’s an awkward position to hold: everybody wants to take you out to the woodshed. The wokegentsia is all “this isn’t an INTELLECTUAL problem, shitlord,” and if I assume catcube speaks for the entire right (which only seems fair), it’s saying “Don’t try to burden me with intellectual distinctions!” It’s weird being met with almost identically shaped arguments. You try to reason with one amygdala, you’ve tried to reason with all of them.

        Despite agreeing that wokeness is a grievance generation machine, I don’t think the grievances are infinite. Nor do I think there’s a good basis to believe

        they will tell industry what to make, and how, and who to sell it to and how much to charge.

        How do you know? Who, specifically, is they? What are they going to make? Maybe I just missed some whackadoo proposals. I did unfollow everyone on Facebook a while ago, so maybe I’ve missed some insanity.

        Your comment on that other thread was so cogent and thoughtful, I feel like I have to be missing something here. But it just feels like people are afraid of the boogeyman.

        • cassander says:

          A. I cannot make the point that I am (correctly or incorrectly) making without some way to specify differences within a 150,000,000 person group.

          there are certainly reasonable middle grounds between “you’re all commies” and “you have to distinguish between the judean people’s front and the people’s front of judea”.

          I don’t think I’m being ungenerous when I say the position is “other people haven’t tried to understand me, so I’m not going to try to understand you.”

          we have pretty good empirical evidence that the right understands the left better than the reverse.

          If you insist on treating the other as an unreasoning, uniform and hegemonic mass, then yea, you’re going to feel threatened. Applying some discernment is a path out of that fear.

          We feel that’s EXACTLY what is done to us, that in the eyes of most people on the left, on a 100 point political spectrum there are 98 points that lead from Stalin to Barack Obama, and the last 2 points are Mitch McConnell > Hitler.

          That’s what he means when he says “The reason for this is that I frankly don’t trust your side to actually fairly make judgements so that we can just throw out whoever you consider to be a “white nationalist”. Every republican president or presidential candidate since Dewey has been called a fascist, its hard for us to trust when we’re told “oh, no we’re only going after the real bad guys”.

          and if I assume catcube speaks for the entire right (which only seems fair),

          the right is at least as diverse as you think the left is. David Friedman is an anarchist. I’m not. We’re both far outside the overton window of polite society, and while we agree on a lot of our critiques of the modern left, the worlds we would build in its place could hardly be more different.

          How do you know? Who, specifically, is they? What are they going to make? Maybe I just missed some whackadoo proposals. I did unfollow everyone on Facebook a while ago, so maybe I’ve missed some insanity.

          the cost of complying with federal regulations alone already runs to trillions a year. Most of the democratic presidential candidates wanted to effectively nationalize the healthcare industry. Much of finance has already been nationalized. Elizabeth warren’s spending plans called to almost double the amount of federal spending. The commanding heights that modern left has their eye on are different from those of 70 years ago, but their attitude towards them is the same.

          But it just feels like people are afraid of the boogeyman.

          Frankly, I am a little afraid. I worry that the modern left will kill the golden geese of modern society. Not all at once in an orgy of violence, but by 1000 little cuts that drain vitality out of society.

          • roflc0ptic says:

            I feel like I keep saying variations on this, but I want to note that this response generally feels like we’re talking past each other. I have been making a narrow point about overblown fears of looming violence, which it sounds like you agree with. I’m going to try to represent my perspective in a little more detail here.

            I wrote:

            I don’t think I’m being ungenerous when I say the position is “other people haven’t tried to understand me, so I’m not going to try to understand you.”

            @cassander wrote:

            we have pretty good empirical evidence that the right understands the left better than the reverse.

            I’m familiar with Haidt’s work here, but bringing it up is changing the subject. I’ll happily stipulate that the statistically average conservative understands the left better than the statistically average liberal. But you can’t make claims about specific instances from the general case. Haidt’s study isn’t a justification for catcube’s individual, literally unreasonable position.

            I concur with catcube that it’s really difficult to have conversations with many leftists and represent any views they disagree with. In my experience, manipulative stuff like calling pretty tame views “dangerous” and saying “this might be intellectual to you, but out there it is life or death!” are rampant. Every meaningful policy decision has an opportunity cost that can (and probably should) be measured in QALYs. There is a cultural pattern to treat holding dissenting viewpoints as a moral harm. Over the years I have personally been castigated by lefties as sexist, patriarchal, “bad with race”, and – without any sense of irony – “a harmful person” who is incapable of self examination. I will say again, I don’t think catcube is pointing at nothing.

            the right is at least as diverse as you think the left is.

            Of *course*. Of course! Yes! Libertarians, ancaps, classical conservatives, tea party conservatives, blue dog democrats, neo-reactionaries, white nationalists, neo-nazis, bugaloo boys, the men’s rights movement, the rural south, the rural midwest, the rural west (It’s so weird seeing confederate flags in Oregon), trumpers, never trumpers, really sincerely committed never trumpers, incels, evangelical christians, non-evangelical christians, mormons, cubans, venezuelans, black conservatives, black conservative separatists a la Clarence Thomas. To be clear, this is from memory. There are distinctions and differences galore.

            When I wrote

            and if I assume catcube speaks for the entire right (which only seems fair),

            I was satirizing catcube’s position.

            Here’s where we begin to have meaningful differences in perspective. you wrote:

            Most of the democratic presidential candidates wanted to effectively nationalize the healthcare industry.

            So in a couple of places, you’ve done this thing where you’re bending the definition of words. I imagine it’s just a hand-wavy, succinct way of expressing more complex ideas. But I think this poses intellectual and emotional danger. “Nationalizing” is a scary word. It’s not literally true, and you acknowledge that by saying “essentially nationalizing.” I think everyone agrees fears should only be based in reality, but in practice I think we can slyly mislead ourselves. Being specific is an anodyne against fear.

            (And before you say ask, yes, I apply this exact same critique to the scope creep around “racist” and “sexist”. I think the grievance engine teaches people a bunch of extra beliefs about how threatening the world is, and actively drives people to traumatize themselves by living in a continuously heightened state of fear and anger. Cortisol is cortisol, whether you’re in a warzone or sitting in a comfy office chair reading Jezebel.)

            Anyways: I think we can have better health outcomes for less money with a public healthcare system. I haven’t looked for e.g. ancap proposals on healthcare, so maybe there’s a really great market solution that’s better than a centralized system. That said, I think single payer is a reasonable improvement to make, and can net wipe out *tons* of bureaucracy from the world while generating more QALYs. I don’t think it has to have the vast negative economic consequences you’re concerned with. I think this is evidenced by the cheaper healthcare systems in other nations, and I haven’t heard a compelling reason why we couldn’t recreate it here in the US.

            I don’t know enough about finance to have an opinion. My intuition says this probably isn’t disastrous, and if intervention in markets can reduce suffering in the world, I’m probably for it.

            Frankly, I am a little afraid. I worry that the modern left will kill the golden geese of modern society. Not all at once in an orgy of violence, but by 1000 little cuts that drain vitality out of society.

            It’s possible. But living in fear of things we have vanishingly little influence over is probably unproductive.

            Elizabeth Warren is knowledgable about economics. AOC identifies with one of the more chill socialist perspectives, but she also has an economics degree – for me, this is good evidence that there are limits on how destructive their politics can get. I’m agnostic on whether or not a “green new deal” is a good way to spend money. Biden is… Biden.

            The democrats are capitalists, whatever that means. Nancy Pelosi has said as much.

            Things are probably going to be fine. Even if they aren’t fine, that will probably work out, too.

          • cassander says:

            @roflc0ptic

            So in a couple of places, you’ve done this thing where you’re bending the definition of words. I imagine it’s just a hand-wavy, succinct way of expressing more complex ideas. But I think this poses intellectual and emotional danger. “Nationalizing” is a scary word. It’s not literally true, and you acknowledge that by saying “essentially nationalizing.” I think everyone agrees fears should only be based in reality, but in practice I think we can slyly mislead ourselves.

            Medicare for all would not technically mean setting up an NHS, but it would mean the government would be setting prices for virtually the entire medical industry by administrative fiat. So the doctors wouldn’t formally work for the state, but the government would be determining who can be a doctor, how they can practice medicine, and how much they can charge. I don’t see very meaningful difference between formal nationalization and gosplan style price setting at this scale.

            That said, I think single payer is a reasonable improvement to make, and can net wipe out *tons* of bureaucracy from the world while generating more QALYs. I don’t think it has to have the vast negative economic consequences you’re concerned with.

            Ah, yes, the government is famously good at REDUCING bureaucracy!

            More seriously, though, it’s fine to argue single payer will be an improvement. it’s not fine to argue it won’t be economically significant. You would be abolishing market prices for almost 1/5 of the economy, and then paying for it with a couple trillion a year in new taxes, assuming you don’t force everyone onto current medicare rates, or over a trillion a year plus millions of healthcare workers getting laid off if you do. It’s precisely this callous attitude towards other people’s money and property that scares us about you on the left.

            I think this is evidenced by the cheaper healthcare systems in other nations, and I haven’t heard a compelling reason why we couldn’t recreate it here in the US.

            (A) there are only a couple countries that have single payer.
            (B) the US already has a single payer system, it’s called medicare and it doesn’t achieve what you claim it will.

            I don’t want to make this a debate about single payer or not, but this argument is incredibly common, and, again, scary. You want to fundamentally transform the way 1/5 of the US economy works on the basis of foreign models, but what you’re proposing isn’t like what they actually do!

            I don’t know enough about finance to have an opinion. My intuition says this probably isn’t disastrous, and if intervention in markets can reduce suffering in the world, I’m probably for it.

            You don’t own those things, you have absolutely no right to them, and your casual assumption that Joe Biden can run them better than the people who currently own them is not just completely unfounded, it’s massively contradicted by the available evidence. Again, what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            Elizabeth Warren is knowledgable about economics. AOC identifies with one of the more chill socialist perspectives, but she also has an economics degree – for me, this is good evidence that there are limits on how destructive their politics can get.

            this is a terrifying degree of confidence in academia. the people who ran the UK into the gutter so far they couldn’t keep the lights on also had economics degrees, as did the people who ran the soviet economy. That means absolutely nothing, and that you think it does is precisely why we think you’re dangerous. You think vast re-arrangements of the economy are no big deal, and that “experts” will work it all out. This just isn’t the case.

            The democrats are capitalists, whatever that means. Nancy Pelosi has said as much.

            I already said I don’t think they’re gonna put people up against a wall. I said they’re going to keep spending other people’s money until they run out. Frankly, we’re already promised far more than we have, piling on even more is insane.

          • Anyways: I think we can have better health outcomes for less money with a public healthcare system.

            And what is the difference between that and “effectively nationaliz(ing)” the health care industry?

            That was claim you were objecting to.

          • roflc0ptic says:

            @davidfriedman I’m working off of this definition for nationalize: “transfer (a major branch of industry or commerce) from private to state ownership or control.”

            For single payer: “Single-payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands”

            The more I look at it, the more I think my objection here was specious. I was thinking that “nationalizing” required seizing ownership, but per the definition it does not. Previously, Cassander was definitely bending the definition of “seize the means of production.” High taxes – very high, oppressively high, destructively high, suicidally high – are materially different than state ownership or control of industry.

            @cassander I’m noting that you’re not acknowledging any points of agreement, or indeed conceding anything. Between that, and the “you people!” sort of tone, it makes me feel a great deal like you’re litigating your tribe’s positions, and not having a dialogue with someone.

            You wrote:

            it’s not fine to argue it won’t be economically significant.

            But I wrote:

            I don’t think it has to have the vast negative economic consequences you’re concerned with.

            I’m making a mistake here – I didn’t/don’t have a full idea of what consequences you’re concerned with, so it’s pretty silly for me to discount them a priori. When I wrote that, I was imagining you were concerned with increasing the cost of healthcare. There I am, conquering a strawman. What I should have written, and was trying to communicate, was “I don’t think it needs to increase actual societal expenditures on healthcare.”

            That said, you’re making a mistake, too. I didn’t say it won’t be economically significant. I don’t think that’s a reasonable read of what I wrote. It will certainly have negative economic consequences for some people, and positive economic consequences for others. I strongly suspect it would be a net good.

            You write about the substantial consequences of implementing single payer, but then you also write

            (A) there are only a couple countries that have single payer.
            (B) the US already has a single payer system, it’s called medicare and it doesn’t achieve what you claim it will.

            Between points A and B, it seems like you’re using two different definitions of single payer: one definition to count, another definition to include medicare. Perhaps I’m confused.

            You don’t own those things, you have absolutely no right to them, and your casual assumption that Joe Biden can run them better than the people who currently own them is not just completely unfounded, it’s massively contradicted by the available evidence. Again, what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            See, this is where my intuition tells me you’re not exactly talking to me.

            You don’t own those things

            never said I did

            you have absolutely no right to them

            This is just a normative assertion, and isn’t falsifiable. Those are your principles. Cool! I think the situation is less clear cut than that!

            your casual assumption that Joe Biden can run them better than the people who currently own them

            This is simultaneously wrong, incoherent, and emotionally manipulative. Joe Biden! Expropriation! Enemies!!!

            A much more defensible way to put this might be:

            I’m making the inference that you believe the state can do a better job managing Fannie Mae than private owners.

            To which I could respond: No, I’m not deeply confident about that. But there’s history there that I’m only passingly familiar with, where the finance market crashed because of fraud perpetrated by private industry. I’m agnostic.

            The position I actually took – “if intervention in markets can reduce suffering in the world, I’m probably for it” does not entail any of what you’re saying. It’s a full on on straw man.

            You write:

            it’s massively contradicted by the available evidence

            You’ve made up my position, and then asserted that it’s a bad position.

            this is a terrifying degree of confidence in academia. the people who ran the UK into the gutter so far they couldn’t keep the lights on also had economics degrees, as did the people who ran the soviet economy. That means absolutely nothing…

            That wikipedia article you linked to indicated that this was during an OPEC oil embargo. I don’t know what you’re getting at here. Are you saying that by rationing power in this manner, the government chose a non-economically optimal distribution strategy, as centralized planning is wont to do?

            As I said, it’s good evidence. It’s not incontrovertible evidence. To say it means “absolutely nothing” is stupid. It implies *something* about Elizabeth Warren’s worldview that she published a paper advocating for deregulation. It implies *something* about AOC’s worldview that she got a degree in econ: sure enough, glancing around, she believes in MMT. I said, and maintain, this is meaningful evidence about their worldview. All else being equal, would you prefer someone with an econ education making economic policy, or someone without?

            You wrote:

            You think vast re-arrangements of the economy are no big deal, and that “experts” will work it all out

            Again, putting words in my mouth here. I think neither of those things. Some much more modest believes that I actually hold: I think vast re-arrangements of the economy can be a viable strategy for reducing suffering in the world. I think that in any given domain, experts will quite regularly fumble and fuck it up, because the world is too complex for humans to model very well. However, flawed efforts can still be net positive.

            You wrote:

            what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            This reads as fairly self righteous.

            I think private property is important, insofar as it’s (wait for it) useful for reducing suffering in the world. In my mind, property rights are a tool we  use to achieve the goal of having a functioning society. It turns out that a posteriori, markets are often a good way to allocate resources, and that the function of markets benefits substantially from strong private property rights. Allocating resources well seems to reduce suffering in the world, ergo, I am in support of strong but not unassailable property rights. Owning stuff isn’t an intrinsic good. I suspect, but do not know, this is the ground floor of our disagreement.

            Ending on some more meta commentary: Your words and tone in this conversation often have a quality that one might graciously describe as certitude. It feels like you’re trying to “win” something, as though we’re in a zero sum competition. Ideally, dialog is collaborative, and isn’t zero sum. On the receiving end, it’s somewhat reminiscent of trying to have a nuanced conversation about feminism with a strident young leftist, up-to-and-including you saying that you feel threatened by my words. You haven’t called me any names yet, so I’ve gotta admit I’m enjoying this way more.

            If we want to “raise the sanity waterline” in the world, modeling humility for others is a really powerful tool. I’m not going to pretend I’m great at it, but I’m really trying.

          • cassander says:

            Previously, Cassander was definitely bending the definition of “seize the means of production.” High taxes – very high, oppressively high, destructively high, suicidally high – are materially different than state ownership or control of industry.

            No one is talking about just taxes here. medicare for all is setting prices by fiat. that is unquestionably government control of industry.

            Between points A and B, it seems like you’re using two different definitions of single payer: one definition to count, another definition to include medicare. Perhaps I’m confused.

            Medicare is a single payer healthcare program. the government collects money from everyone, and finances the care of everyone over 65.

            You don’t own those things

            never said I did

            You act as if you have a perfect right to dispose of them. that’s what ownership is.

            This is just a normative assertion, and isn’t falsifiable. Those are your principles. Cool! I think the situation is less clear cut than that!

            I’m trying to explain why we consider people who think like you dangerous.

            To which I could respond: No, I’m not deeply confident about that. But there’s history there that I’m only passingly familiar with, where the finance market crashed because of fraud perpetrated by private industry. I’m agnostic.

            If you’re referring to 2008, you’re completely wrong about the history. the fact that you base a worldview where it’s ok to seize other people’s things based on history you admit you are only passingly familiar with is, again, why we find this dangerous. And for the record, fannie mae IS run by the government.

            That wikipedia article you linked to indicated that this was during an OPEC oil embargo.

            British power at the time came from coal, not oil or gas. OPEC had nothing to do with the fact that british labor policy was a disaster.

            I don’t know what you’re getting at here. Are you saying that by rationing power in this manner, the government chose a non-economically optimal distribution strategy, as centralized planning is wont to do?

            A first world country whose labor policies are so bad that they literally can’t keep the lights on is the sort of outcome you said was impossible with people with degrees running the country. My point is that it has happened before and it will happen again if it is allowed to.

            All else being equal, would you prefer someone with an econ education making economic policy, or someone without?

            having an econ degree is not evidence that one knows something meaningful about economic policy. to quote an economist, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. To the naive mind that can conceive of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions order, and adaptation to the unknown, can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions and that a division of authority will actually extend the possibility of overall order. Yet that decentralization actually leads to more information being taken into account.”

            what you just said is a frightening statement to anyone who believes that private property is important.

            This reads as fairly self righteous.

            you asked why we act as if we’re afraid. I’m telling you.

            Owning stuff isn’t an intrinsic good. I suspect, but do not know, this is the ground floor of our disagreement

            No, it isn’t. As I’ve said, the disagreement is that you think the world is far more easily understandable than it is, and you are far to casual with other people’s livelihoods. “I do what results in the most utils” is a perfectly fine sentiment, but utterly useless as guide to practical action. the consequences of taking away property rights have been demonstrated over and over again, it always ends badly, and there’s always someone like you coming around and saying “well look what if just did this one thing.”

            Ending on some more meta commentary: Your words and tone in this conversation often have a quality that one might graciously describe as certitude.

            Funny, I’d say the same thing about you. You make very broad pronouncements about things like the cause of the 2008 financial crash while admitting you haven’t actually looked into the issue. And I don’t mean to pick on you here, most people know very little about policy. but that’s a big part of why people like me think there should be less of it, because it’s far, far to easy for ignorance to get enacted into law. And when we hear things like “where the finance market crashed because of fraud perpetrated by private industry” we see children playing with matches.

          • Aapje says:

            @roflc0ptic

            Warren seems like she would make a decent president if she actually went with her (earlier?) convictions. However, during her campaign she went out of her way to act as wo(k)efully insane as she could. Perhaps that is the lesson that she took from Clinton, that technocrats are hated, so she should pander to the far-left as much as she could, no matter if it made her into a parody.

            At this point, it’s not clear whether she could pivot back (also because people tend to rationalize the crap they’re doing, so she may have internalized the insanity).

          • John Schilling says:

            Previously, Cassander was definitely bending the definition of “seize the means of production.” High taxes – very high, oppressively high, destructively high, suicidally high – are materially different than state ownership or control of industry.

            High taxes alone, perhaps not. High taxes plus high regulation, yes. Note the “or control” part of “nationalization”.

            If most of the profits of an industry are taken by the national government, and most of the relevant(*) decision space of the industry is locked off by government regulation, then it seems reasonable to say that the industry has been mostly nationalized.

            Which, yes, makes it a fuzzier definition than a simplistic “it’s only nationalized if the State holds the title certificate” version, but it’s also a much more useful definition.

            * i.e. things that the industry might otherwise choose to do in the pursuit of profit and that wouldn’t be illegal under a common-law “no fraud or theft” type legal regime.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      “Finally, the left is being self aware about how absurdly self righteous it sounds!!”

      That would be self-lefteous, right?

      I’m over 60, I don’t know how it crept up on me. Everything is uncertain, and I realise it always was.

  15. WarOnReasons says:

    In every country the film industry presents a distorted version of reality, but the ways it does that change from place to place. I noticed that in the French cinema the protagonists are much more likely than in other countries to show extreme disregard for money or public opinion. In the old Chinese and Soviet movies, almost the entire cast frequently plays selfless patriots. In the modern English and American movies, the society is portrayed as much more racially integrated than it is or was in reality, so that even XVIth century aristocrats might be played by black actors.

    Do you know of other country-specific traditions to misrepresent reality in the movies?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      People don’t break into coordinated song and dance in India more than in any other country.

    • GearRatio says:

      Modern China:

      I’ve seen a few Chinese films that degrade at some point into a full-on propaganda speech. “Looking For Jackie”, for instance, is a movie about a good-for-nothing boy who has gone to private school in another Asian country (Indonesia? Korea?), but moves back to China because he wants to meet Jackie Chan. Said little shit spends the rest of the movie demonstrating how his other-Asian upbringing has made him shitty and running into much-superior Chinese-raised citizens.

      By the time he finally meets Jackie, he gets lectured about how he needs to work on himself to be a better Chinese person and grandson. That’s it; the whole movie is about how much better Chinese folk are than rest-of-Asia and how you should, if possible, be filial and party-loyal.

      Italy:

      Far less cowboys and outlaws than represented.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It’s a common complaint about American movies and tv that people are shown as living in much larger homes than they could afford, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for other countries as well.

      • ana53294 says:

        Filming in tiny apartments is hard. I barely manage to make decent photos of my room to show most angles.

        And things like fish-eye lenses would be really annoying in a movie-long thing. You need the space for the cameras.

      • fibio says:

        It’s almost universally true, if only because all that extra space isn’t there for the viewers its there for the film crew.

    • Deiseach says:

      This is A Very Irish Film but what relation it has to current (or indeed past) reality is more tenuous 🙂

  16. Scott Alexander says:

    Suppose you’re running a rating app like Yelp. One restaurant has 5 stars and 1 review. Another has 4.9 stars and 100 reviews. You think probably the second restaurant is better and should be recommended more often to consumers.

    One way of implementing this is to start with a prior that every restaurant is average, ie let every restaurant start with X three-star reviews, and then new reviews drag it away from that prior in one direction or the other.

    My question is – is there a principled way to choose X? I read https://medium.com/district-data-labs/computing-a-bayesian-estimate-of-star-rating-means-651496a890ab and I cannot really make sense of it. I don’t want to do anything fancy with distributions, just insert some number of average reviews before we get to the real ones. What should that number be?

    • Erusian says:

      Suppose you’re running a rating app like Yelp.

      Okay, so I’m an extortionist with a good PR department. Got it.

      My question is – is there a principled way to choose X?

      The way these score systems generally work is that they evaluate based on total purchases (if available), total reviews, and total score averaged out. Most places draw this distinction between something that has no or few reviews and someone who has a lot of bad reviews. Some also have systems that contrast reviews received in (say) the last month as opposed to all time. Virtually every system I’ve seen will privilege 500 reviews and a 4.1 score over two reviews and a 5 score unless they have a special category like “new, rising trend”.

      There’s also the BBB approach where you start off with an A and lose points due to complaints and gain AA and AAA over a lack of complaints over time.

      So I’m not sure choosing X is a good idea. The current system conveys more information. Why not give them a state that explicitly marks them out as just starting and let people take the risk?

    • oriscratch says:

      Warning: I am not very well versed in statistics, and am mostly going off intuition. Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.

      So I would assume that the distribution of restaurant ratings is like a bell curve, with few restaurants at the tails (1 and 5) and most restaurants rating in the middle. So the prior should actually be the number of stars corresponding the the highest point on the bell curve, as that is the rating with the most restaurants and thus the most likely rating for any given restaurant. (Is this basically the same as taking the average star value of all restaurants? I’m not sure.)

      If the bell curve is really steep (for example, tons of restaurants get 3 star reviews but barely any get 1 or 5 star reviews), then X should be larger, as that would indicate a higher chance that the restaurant in question actually has a rating that matches the prior. If the bell curve is really flat (for example, only slightly more restaurants get 3 star reviews than 1 or 5 star reviews), then X should be lower, as that would indicate a lower chance that the restaurant in question actually has a rating that matches the prior.

      I’m not sure how you would calculate a precise number for X though, but that’s my vague approximation.

      • Reborn says:

        I would assume that the distribution of restaurant ratings is like a bell curve, with few restaurants at the tails (1 and 5) and most restaurants rating in the middle

        I don’t think that’s actually the case with Yelp or other review apps. I feel like there’s a giant cluster from 3.5 to 4.0 or 4.5 and very little below 3. I find such services do basically nothing to differentiate any but the most outstanding and the most terrible restaurants.

        I think a big part of the problem is that a huge swath of those restaurants in the middle appeal differently to people with different tastes — i.e. everyone can agree that Alinea is pretty good and a restaurant to food poisons all eaters is pretty bad but there’s a lot of disagreement about what constitutes somewhat above-average pizza and what constitutes somewhat below average pizza.

        The obvious solution is to abandon giving places a single star rating that everyone sees and, instead, rate them differently for different users. Such a system would need to see how users had rated a bunch of places, find clusters of users who agreed with them most of the time, and show what these paired users thought of similar places.

        But apparently it’s very difficult to do this in practice. (Recall the prize that Netflix offered to anyone that could improve its rating algorithm by a very modest 10 percent.) So everyone gets a bunch of generic ratings that are all lumped in the upper middle, with every relevant rating by someone with similar dining tastes obscured by a different rating from a non-paired diner.

        • JayT says:

          Very few restaurants survive long term, so wouldn’t we expect the worst ones to have an even harder time surviving? I would expect that over time the number of 3-5 star restaurants would dwarf the number of 1-2 star ones. Especially on restaurants that have more than a handful of reviews.

        • Amazon tries to do this sort of thing with books, to recommend books to you based on what books you have bought. But I don’t think it does it very well.

          • Reborn says:

            No. Nothing I’ve seen is great at personalized recommendations.

            I suspect part of the problem is that different preferences are a thing not only for different people but also for the same person at different times.

            For example, sometimes when I go out, I’m just trying to eat reasonably quickly and move on with my life, so I’d knock a star off a place that served food at a deliberate pace. At other times, I’m trying to make a meal into a night out, so I’d knock a star off a place that served me too quickly.

            What the hell is Yelp supposed to do when I can’t even agree with myself?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The announcement of the prize mentioned that Napoleon Dynamite was a movie where people’s likes and dislikes were hard to predict, which seemed like a good reason to watch it.

          I don’t think I’ve seen anything else like it, though there may be some such among indie movies.

          It’s a movie about normal maturation, and a little slow-paced, but not as slow-paced as the real thing.

          I enjoyed it.

        • oriscratch says:

          That just means the bell curve is heavily skewed to the right.

    • Iago the Yerfdog says:

      What about adapting LaPlace’s Rule of Succession by adding five new reviews, with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 stars respectively? Thus the single five-star review becomes a 3.33 star place, and the 100-review 4.9 star place becomes a ~4.81 star place.

      • phi says:

        Since “restaurant quality” is going to be reported as a single real number, I think it would be better here to stick with the original rule of succession: Start with 2 reviews, one with 5 stars and one with 1 star. (Or equivalently, two reviews that both have 3 stars.) So the answer would be X=2, corresponding to the n+2 here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_succession#Statement_of_the_rule_of_succession.

        • Taleuntum says:

          I’m confused.

          Why is it better to stick with the original rule of succession in cases where we only report the average?

          The original rule of succession is for 2 possible outcomes (eg. upvote or downvote), here there are 5 possibilities (1,2,3,4,5 star). The version for multiple possibilities (described by the previous commenter and here (we report the expected value of A_i (random variable denoting the type of the next review) which is equivalent to adding one review of each type and reporting the average of all reviews)) seems much more justified to me in this case.

          • Taleuntum says:

            Minor correction: A_i is used on the linked page for the event that the next observation is in category i, so If I could edit my comment, I would replace “A_i” with (eg) “X”. (X=i iff A_i)

    • Hey says:

      I don’t think you can just pick a single value for X. If X is very small, it won’t change much, and if it isn’t, the first reviews will be almost ignored (and even a single review of 1 or 5 gives lots of information about the quality of the restaurant).
      The right solution with N reviews might be to take something like X=sqrt(N), because your uncertainty (standard deviation) over the right score for a restaurant is proportional to 1/sqrt(N), and if you assume that the actual score is in the part of the confidence interval that’s close to 3 (i.e if you have a prior that favors values close to 3), your update should be roughly proportional to your standard deviation and to your distance from 3.
      Microsoft’s TrueSkill ranking system uses something similar to make sure top players aren’t just new players who got lucky, you may want to look at exactly how they do it.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      I don’t pay much heed to numeric reviews of anything – I only really care about descriptive text reviews.

    • GearRatio says:

      The problem with this system is it’s unfair to everyone except average restaurants. Good restaurants have to wait longer to prove themselves and are less likely to, since you are telling people “this is an average restaurant” instead of “this is a new restaurant” which has different implications. Crappy restaurants are at least temporarily subsidized.

      Meanwhile, different industries get entirely different amounts of reviews. It’s weird for a hotel to have less than 100 reviews and odd for a campground to have less than 200, but downright suspicious when a podiatrist breaks triple digits. So while you might want 20-50 reviews before you consider a restaurant reliable, you probably only want 1-10 for an obscure non-hobbyist shop or service of the type people are unlikely to think to review.

      I think the problem gets easier as soon as you factor in user choice. First, you show everything with any reviews in order, just as you do now. Most people have no problem with this. Everyone left who DOES have a problem with it is of the notice-a-problem-and-want-a-solution type who could reasonably be expected to invest a click or two to configure their search screen in the same way a “price low to high” clicker does.

      For the second kind who want more features, it seems as if it would be pretty trivial to design a “x amount of reviews” sorting feature. On, say, Amazon, this could be as simple as a draggable bar that senses the review number range and allows for lower and upper bounds.

      I think this makes sense because anybody in a shopping mood who cares about number of reviews like this is often-to-usually going to care in the sense that they have a minimum amount of reviews they will accept as evidence; too few reviews is no reviews, for most of those who care at all. If they then want to scoop up the less-reviewed products, they just work the slider from the right rather than from the left.

    • Nornagest says:

      Another consideration is that quality isn’t constant. A restaurant isn’t a movie, which is released once and then fixed for all time — you can reasonably expect most businesses to be aware of their Yelp ratings, and if they’re any good they’ll probably be trying to adapt to them. That means that ratings from five years ago aren’t necessarily reflective of what you can expect today.

      One way to capture this is to use an exponentially weighted moving average, which has the handy property that you can implement updates with only the most recent rating — you don’t need to iterate over previous ratings every time you update it. Depending on your needs, though, this may or may not be the best choice.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think the best way to handle restaurants changing over time would be to offer a graph that shows a chronological sequence of the average rating.

        And/or an option to just see the most recent (six months?) ratings.

      • AG says:

        Oh man, I was trying to find a dentist, and every review seemed to be talking about doctors that weren’t there anymore, so basically all of those reviews were useless.

    • John Schilling says:

      If I were willing to be sneaky about it, I’d calculate the numerical rating by quietly ignoring all of the one-star and five-star reviews and calculate the mean of a normal distribution(*) fit to the 2-, 3-, and 4-star reviews. The five-star reviews are too heavily influenced by uncritical fanboys, the one-star by people who are unreasonably put off by one perceived and possibly minor failing, and how many people are going to independently check your math?

      The restaurant with one five-star review remains unrated. The one with a hundred reviews averaging 4.9 in the raw data, presumably more 4-star reviews than 2-3 star, so the extrapolated peak of the normal distribution is somewhere in the 4-5 range. And if a restaurant comes back with a single 4-star review, meh, give it a 4.0 until we have more data.

      * OK, it really has to be a truncated normal with the maximum at 5.0, which complicates the math a bit.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        My math comes out linear, because any average of reviews is going to come out as a single value. To see how many reviews, N, with an average score of Avg, are necessary for a given starting number of 3 star reviews, X, to obtain an average review of 4 stars:

        (3*X + Avg*N)/(X+N) = 4 #just adding averages together

        Simplifies to N = X/(Avg-4)

        I tried coming up with code in R, but when plotted, this does not generate anything interesting, just the obvious that your Average review needs to be well above 4 to drag the average up to 4. Tethering your initial score to 3 seems like it would actually hurt good restaurants by anchoring them. Furthermore, my math is basically useless, since I doubt Yelp uses simple averages for the score.

    • zardoz says:

      I am not a statistician, but it seems weird to adopt a scoring mechanism that is so ordering-dependent. Like if I get ten 1s and then ten 5s, I end up at 5, but if I get ten 5s and then ten 1s, I end up at 1. Just because of the order in which people hit OK on their phones? That doesn’t sound right. How about just giving people the option of “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” and then treating it as a Bernouli distribution?

      If you’re really attached to the idea of an integer-valued rating system, then maybe look into somehow penalizing restaurants for having high variance? But that seems to increase your fragility to trolls leaving drive-by “1”s, and might punish restaurants that are “love it or hate it.”

      Personally, I skim the comments and mostly ignore the rating these days.

    • Anatid says:

      Say the “true quality” of a restaurant is what its average rating would be after a large number of people rated it, and say we are trying to make our average be a good estimate of the true quality. I think we need to know two things:

      – The uncertainty of our prior: if we got the true quality of all the restaurants, what would be the standard deviation of that distribution? Call this standard deviation P.

      – The uncertainty of the single “measurement” (review): given a restaurant of a fixed true quality, what will the standard deviation of its star ratings be? Call this standard deviation U.

      Then I think we should start off with about U/P fake 3-star reviews. For example

      – If U and P are about the same, then it means our prior, by itself, has about the same uncertainty as a single review, by itself, so we should weight the first review and the prior equally (meaning we should have 1 fake review).

      – If U is very small, much smaller than P (meaning that everyone basically rates a given restaurant the same), then we don’t need any fake reviews since even a single review gives us a much better estimate than our prior did.

      – If P is very small, much smaller than U (meaning most restaurants end up having a similar true quality, but each individual review is noisy) then we need a lot of fake reviews, because we have a strong prior that this restaurant will be like the others, and each review only gives a little bit of evidence that could shift that prior.

      P.S. Also, probably the fake reviews should have a star rating equal to the mean star rating across all restaurants, since our prior should be that this restaurant is about average.

      • Anatid says:

        Actually I think we want (U/P)^2 fake reviews. As a heuristic argument for that, if U is the uncertainty (standard deviation) of one measurement (review), then the uncertainty of the mean of N independent measurements is U/sqrt(N). Say our prior’s standard deviation, P, is 1/10th the standard deviation of a single measurement, U, so that U/P = 10. Then we need 10^2 = 100 measurements in order for the mean of the measurements to have the same uncertainty (and therefore the same weight) as the prior. So we should treat the prior as having the weight of 100 measurements.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Thanks. I’m not qualified to say that this is right, but this was the answer I found most helpful.

    • Chalid says:

      If you’re doing this in a principled way (and treating this as an abstract question about math/stats instead of a practical question about restaurant ratings, as I assume you’re not really asking about restaurants), you want to choose X so that the mean of your X “prior reviews” and of the real reviews is predictive of the mean of future reviews.

      So take subsets A and B of your real reviews, and figure out what value of X “prior reviews” averaged with the reviews of subset A minimizes the error in estimating the means of B. If you really need to, divide into multiple subsets and do cross-validation.

    • phi says:

      Lots of commenters have made good points here, but if you just want to pick a number and be done with it, choose X=2, because of Laplace’s rule of succession. Yes the results will probably be slightly worse than a complicated formula that takes everything into account, but it will be pretty close, and a good quick and dirty option.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        The Rule of Succession (I had to look it up) may be a handy solution here, but doesn’t it just derive trivially as an implementation of Bayes?

        • keaswaran says:

          Laplace’s rule of succession ends up being equivalent to starting with a flat prior over possible biases, updating in light of observations, and then taking the mean of the current posterior as one’s guess. This isn’t entirely “trivial”, and it has a very substantive assumption built in with this flat prior. (Why start with a prior that the probability of heads is equally likely to be in the range .5-.75 as in the range .75-1 rather than with a prior that the odds of heads is equally likely to be in the range 1:1-3:1 as in the range 3:1-5:1?)

    • Dack says:

      It seems to me that the more honest way to do it would be to not fiddle with the numbers. Simply put an asterisk next to any review with less than 5 reviews (or whatever number) and add a footnote.

      “*: This is a provisional rating based on less then 5 reviews.”

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      If instead of star ratings we had incomparable categories (e.g. we were asking people their favourite colour) you would definitely want additive smoothing. This is phrased as adding α items from each category rather than X copies of the mean (since in general we can’t take the mean). A value of α = 1 (corresponding to X = 5) corresponds to Laplace’s rule of succession/the assumption that all sets of values for the probabilities of someone giving a 1/2/3/4/5 star rating are equally likely.

      Quoth Wikipedia:

      From a Bayesian point of view, [the result of additive smoothing] corresponds to the expected value of the posterior distribution, using a symmetric Dirichlet distribution with parameter α as a prior distribution.

      and also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirichlet_distribution#Intuitive_interpretations_of_the_parameters

      Intuitively, a higher α corresponds to a prior that favours “smooth” distributions. In the limit where α is infinity, you’re saying you’re completely certain that the probability of each star rating is equal. A lower α favours “spiky” distributions. When α is 0 and there’s no smoothing, a single datum makes you jump to the distribution where only one star rating is ever possible. We have a prior that this is not a very likely distribution of star rating probabilities, which is why some smoothing is a good idea.

      It does seem plausible that spiky distributions are more likely than smooth ones: a restaurant is more likely to get mostly high or mostly low or mostly middling ratings than equal amounts of each star. So we might want to use α < 1, and therefore my semi-principled value for X is something between 0 and 5.

      However, this is additive smoothing for general categorical data. In this case, our categories are numbers that we can compare and take the mean of etc. Intuitively it seems like this should change things somewhat (e.g. it's more likely that a restaurant only ever gets 4s and 5s than that it only ever gets 1s and 4s) but I'm not sure there's a neat general way to integrate this.

      Also, this is an answer for the abstract case where we're considering this restaurant in isolation. In the concrete case where we are Yelp and have a large dataset of other restaurants' ratings, we can use those to produce our priors.

    • paragonal_ says:

      3blue1brown has a video about this problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8idr1WZ1A7Q

      He gives an interesting heuristic which he says he will support mathematically in a to-be-released follow-up video. It simply goes like this: Add both a positive and a negative review. So a single 5-star rating would be interpreted as a 67% rating.

    • Immortal Lurker says:

      This reply is likely too late, but I’m pretty sure I have the answer. Reddit had a similar problem with top comments, and eventually switched to “best”, which had a more complicated model that basically viewed the votes as being a random sample from the true distribution of quality.

      granted, we now have five options and not 2, but it should be pretty easy to generalize.

      Get a sample of existing and extensively reviewed restaurants for each star rating (probably with some binning, so that 4.9 with 1000 reviews is considered a 5 star). This should result in 5 discrete distributions, S1-S5, with each distribution having 5 points, with each point being the probability that an X star restaurant receives a a review of Y stars.

      Then, with a lot of multiplying, you can take the reviews a given restaurant actually has, and figure out the odds of a given distribution could have produced those reviews, assuming that one of the five distributions actually did. For example, you could get: 10% its a 1 star, 10% its a 2 star, 40% its a 3 star, 20% its a 4 star, 20% its a 5 star. 1 * 0.1 + 2 * 0.2 + 3 * 0.4 + 4 * 0.2 + 5 * 0.2 = 3.3 stars.

      Voting distributions may be different based on region, restaurant subtype, the phase of the moon, etc. Getting multiple distributions might be valuable.

    • keaswaran says:

      It’s weird to be in a context where I’m the frequentist, but it seems like you might naturally report a confidence interval for the mean. With a large sample of reviews, you’ll have a tight confidence interval, and it will basically work out to the sample mean. But with a small sample of reviews, you’ll be have a wider interval. Some people would want to sort by the bottom of the confidence interval, while others might sort by the top of the confidence interval, or the current point estimate of the true mean.

    • rahien.din says:

      It’s just confidence intervals.

      If your average review is 4.75 and the standard deviation is 0.25, the confidence interval is (2.5,5).
      If your average review is 4.1 and the standard deviation is 0.16, the confidence interval is (3.94,4.26).

  17. hash872 says:

    I wonder if one of the unexpected consequences of ‘defunding’ (or more realistically, debundling) the police is a rise in private security guards, for businesses or neighborhoods. If there are less police officers to answer low-level calls (sketchy-looking guy in the neighborhood, aggressive panhandler in the parking lot, someone’s being loud and disruptive but not necessarily violent in the supermarket, female employees don’t feel safe walking to their cars at night, etc.), an increase in security guards makes a lot of sense. This isn’t meant as a criticism of the ‘debundling the police’ concept (I actually like it quite a bit, though more around traffic stops), but just a general observation as to where society might go.

    You often hear people say ‘the police have a monopoly on violence’, but that’s not really true- private security has a pretty well-carved out little niche. Licensed security guards for places like banks can openly carry powerful handguns even in extremely blue states like New York, California, etc. Bouncers can effectively beat up unruly customers, or people they say are unruly, and seem to enjoy good relations with local police and some degree of legal deference.

    Or, alternately, a consequence of the increasing inequality in US society could be a rise in private security. They are extremely common in weaker states, developing countries with higher inequality and serious crimes rates. Travel to say Latin America and you will see guards for wealthy neighborhoods, for individual families, to protect against kidnappers, for places where the police are corrupt or ineffective, etc. Frankly, I see all of these elements in the United States- maybe not a weak state but high levels of inequality, much higher crimes rates than other developed countries, etc. Also combine this what I call crypto-fascism, the libertarian idea (that I hear from Silicon Valley types more & more) that the state is fundamentally incompetent and that we should outsource more of its functions to the private sector.

    When I played Shadowrun as a kid, a million years ago, I remember part of their alternate history was that private corporations’ security & merc units replaced the US government’s police & military functions. I’m not saying that will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see a rise in security companies. Might not be a bad business given that gun permits for armed guards (like the bank guards in blue states example given above) will be only be given out to a few companies, not willy-nilly

    • cassander says:

      Also combine this what I call crypto-fascism, the libertarian idea (that I hear from Silicon Valley types more & more) that the state is fundamentally

      “Fascism reaffirms the State as the true reality of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of the real man, and not of that abstract puppet envisaged by individualistic Liberalism, Fascism is for liberty. And for the only liberty which can be a real thing, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. Therefore, for the Fascist, everything is in the State, and nothing human or spiritual exists, much less has value, outside the State. In this sense Fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.”

      There is no form of fascism, crypto or otherwise, that can be combined with libertarianism, an ideology entirely dedicated to the notion that the state is dangerous and must be limited.

      • hash872 says:

        I don’t mean that they are literally advocating for ‘fascism’, I just like the turn of phrase (‘crypto-fascism’ has been around for a while, but here I’m repurposing ‘crypto’ in its more modern usage to allude to Silicon Valley types, etc.)

        Ironically some libertarian types are intrigued by actual fascism, because the fascists promise to keep their taxes low. They raise private property rights to be the highest societal value, excluding others. Not saying they all do- I’m a libertarian fellow traveler, myself!- just an observation. The happy relationships between authoritarian right-wing governments and big business or landed property types has been replicated in dozens and dozens of separate countries over hundreds of years, we’re not exactly breaking new ground with this concept here.

        Lots of right-leaning people, Hawley-types, have become much more corporate-skeptical in recent years (primarily with Big Tech), and have said a lot of great, eloquent stuff about ‘let’s not have authoritarian mega-corporations rule us either’. But society does seem to be on a bit of a cyberpunk path, so maybe it will happen….

        • Erusian says:

          Ironically some libertarian types are intrigued by actual fascism, because the fascists promise to keep their taxes low. They raise private property rights to be the highest societal value, excluding others.

          These people would be what I call “completely ignorant of Fascist ideology, doctrine, or practice.” Alternatively people who’ve bought Soviet propaganda hook line and sinker. But those groups basically overlap.

          Fascists had no commitment to the idea of private property. Mussolini saw the economy as existing to serve the state. Hitler saw the economy as something you could win and liked or dislike capitalism (which he agreed was fundamentally exploitative) based on whether Aryans were doing the exploiting. (He also was a strident anti-capitalist in the Wall Street sense because he saw the modern capitalist system as Jewish.)

          Both raised taxes and nationalized industries. Both introduced direct political control of corporations. Both formed entirely new labor unions and forced the corporations to play nice with these unions. (Indeed, one of the reasons the Argentine conservative establishment rejected Fascism was because it was seen as too pro-union.)

          • hash872 says:

            Those last two paragraphs are simply not correct. It is true that during Hitler’s rise he did use some vaguely left-wing populist language (supposedly he was persuaded by others in his orbit to put ‘socialism’ in the title of National Socialism because it would be appealing). And the SA was a much more left-wing, proto-Communist grouping, with anti-big business and landed gentry leanings. But by the time he destroyed the SA, executed their leaders and replaced them with the SS, Nazism’s journey away from the left was complete. The Nazis had a symbiotic relationship with established German business and really didn’t do that much nationalization. I highly recommend these two pieces by Pseudorasmus, economic historian and friend of SSC (he’s an academic specialist, reasonably famous and Scott has him linked under ‘economists’ within the left-hand column)

            https://pseudoerasmus.com/2015/05/03/fascism-left-or-right/
            https://pseudoerasmus.com/2015/05/06/fascists-part-2/

            “All actually-existed fascist states practised business-friendly economic policies, even if they were not ideologically laissez-faire. They could have easily done otherwise — this was after all the 1930s, the heyday and apogee of socialism as an ideology. But no fascist in power even contemplated taking the Soviet route of destroying the capital- and land-owning classes… All actually-existed fascist states repressed labour unions, socialists, and communists. Despite the worker-friendly rhetoric of fascists, they in actual power regimented labour in such a way as to please any strike-breaking capitalist of the 19th century. The Nazis, for example, forced workers into a single state-controlled trades union (DAF), which controlled wage growth and prevented striking and wage arbitration… Communists have a demonstrated record of erasing traditional society root and branch — exterminating aristocrats, industrialists, landowners, priests, kulaks, etc. Fascists in actual power, despite their modernist reputation, seem almost traditional in comparison. In Mussolini’s Italy, the king, the titled nobility, the church, the industrialists, the landholders, and the mafia slept soundly at night… Self-proclaimed fascist parties in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s pinched their votes from the middle-class and conservative parties… Big business interests either were strong supporters of the fascists once in power, or (in some countries) had backed them well before their seizure of power”.

            (I see that we have ventured far from my original point about private security guards in 21st century America. 100% my fault for including throwaway broader comments on fascism- I’m going to write tighter comments in the future that don’t touch on well-known hot points)

          • cassander says:

            The Nazis had a symbiotic relationship with established German business and really didn’t do that much nationalization.

            that doesn’t make them free market or the pro property rights. Wages of destruction makes this very clear.

            from the links you quote

            Since fascism was always a kind of pseudo-ideology made on the fly, without a long history of thought and debate like socialism, it’s wrong-headed to infer “what they really were” from the Italian fascists’ platform in 1919, or the fact that Hitler called his party “(National) Socialist German Workers Party”, or even from their electoral strategy.

            this is utter nonsense. the ideology of fascists doesn’t matter because they made it up? every ideology is made up. that it means nothing!

            All actually-existed fascist states practised business-friendly economic policies

            what does this even mean?

            All actually-existed fascist states repressed labour unions, socialists, and communists.

            Yep, and they also repressed everyone else. that’s what repressive states do.

            Fascists fetishised law & order, and made a cult out of the armed forces.

            just, lol

            Pseudorasmus seizes on the non-nationalization of industry to argue that fascism was pro-business, whatever that means. he ignores that control is more important than ownership, and the fascists seized control of whatever they thought was important. If you make what the state tells you to make, with materials that they give you and sell it to them at the price they set for you, you do not in any meaningful sense own your company even if you have some title to it.

            I would not contend that the Nazis were a left wing movement (though some fascists were), but they certainly weren’t a movement that believed in property rights and low taxes.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Fascists in actual power, despite their modernist reputation, seem almost traditional in comparison. In Mussolini’s Italy, the king, the titled nobility, the church, the industrialists, the landholders, and the mafia slept soundly at night…

            “Fascists didn’t execute everyone in or even have a chilling effect on social classes with huge numbers of people in them” is terrible rhetoric if one wants to make them sound as evil as Communists. Though he does say

            forced workers into a single state-controlled trades union (DAF), which controlled wage growth and prevented striking and wage arbitration…

            … which is a chilling effect on urban proles who’d prefer normal unions.

          • Erusian says:

            The blog you quote appears to have a low standard for citations. I only counted (through randomly clicking on the links) one peer reviewed paper and that paper was supporting a very minor point (that landowners in Fascist Italy generally benefitted from Mussolini’s rule due to his policy of subsidizing agriculture). The others I clicked were more central to the essay and mostly consisted of links to other organizations without academic credentials.

            Further, the article is simply poorly informed. They claim that industrialists supported Hitler because taxes were too high in the Weimar Republic. One problem: Hitler raised taxes above Weimar levels. They handily elide this by mentioning one specific company that got a tax break as part of a government contract. And the assertion about taxes itself? Uncited. Because it’s untrue. The Weimar had a top tax rate of 60% and lowered it twice, until it was in the high thirties. Hitler raised it back up to 50% and cut out the minimum 10% rate, making the tax system more progressive. (He raised this further, to the point the state basically controlled the whole economy by the end of the war.) See Harold’s Economic Reasons for the Collapse of the Weimar Republic or Hans Mommsen’s The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy. Both of those, by the way, are professors of history that specialize in Nazi Germany.

            The idea that the Nazis were for business friendly properties or lower taxes is just plain wrong. They were, at best, business’s distant second choice behind mainstream corporate conservatives and moderate left-wingers. (Business didn’t like aristocratic politics, didn’t like Nazis, but above all hated Communists.) If you have a world view where business supports Fascism to protect itself against the working class, you have a worldview that was literally the Moscow party line. It’s worth asking why that is. (See Kotkin’s excellent Stalin: Waiting For Hitler for the Soviet view of Fascism and how it was wrong.)

          • Whatever fascists may say about themselves in their confusing ad-hoc scramble for an ideology, in practice everything is oriented around strengthening the unity and power of the nation. The state is just a means to that end. For communists, the state is just a means to strengthening the unity and power of the working class. Fascists think communists are national traitors by kicking up class rivalries within the nation. Communists think fascists are class traitors by kicking up national rivalries within the class. This is why both sides hate each others’ guts even though they both rely on a strong state as a tool.

            As for businesses supporting fascists, not everything is about taxes. What good are low taxes when you have several years of mass waves of factory and land occupations and work stoppages, and an utter breakdown in labor discipline, as in Italy in the early 1920s? Businesses will happily follow state orders and accept a smaller guaranteed profit margin within the fascist state plan than experience that sort of ongoing chaos and risk of revolution and guillotining. It’s all about what seems like the best option in the context, not what would be the ideal option if social peace actually seemed easy to achieve without a strong state at all times.

          • Erusian says:

            As for businesses supporting fascists, not everything is about taxes.

            No, but the specific claim was about taxes. This is moving the goalposts: the specific claim was that libertarians might like Fascism because they prioritize lower taxes, something Fascists (apparently) provide.

            Except I knew the Fascists didn’t provide that. And then hash872 reiterated that specific claim. I said it was false. They cited a blog post by someone who spends their time arguing with pundits. I cited respected academic historians showing it was false.

            I am happy to move on and have a debate about a second topic. I’d enjoy talking about business’s relationship with Fascism at length. But first, I want to make sure I’m not bashing an egg against a stone. So I’ll need you to agree that Hitler raised taxes on the wealthy and lowered them on the poor. That this means that previous claims in this thread, including all of the evidence cited, contain blatant factual errors. And that the idea that Fascism was supported because it would lower taxes is wrong. Alternatively, you can cite academic sources specifically about Nazi tax rates that show I’m mistaken.

            After that, happy to talk about it. I don’t think you’re wholly mistaken though I believe you’ve missed some context.

        • cassander says:

          Ironically some libertarian types are intrigued by actual fascism, because the fascists promise to keep their taxes low. They raise private property rights to be the highest societal value, excluding others.

          Citation needed. “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” leaves precious little room for private property or low taxes.

          The happy relationships between authoritarian right-wing governments and big business or landed property types has been replicated in dozens and dozens of separate countries over hundreds of years, we’re not exactly breaking new ground with this concept here.

          Fascism is a specific ideology with specific beliefs, not a catchall term for anyone on the right who’s more than a little undemocratic.

          • Ketil says:

            Fascism is a specific ideology with specific beliefs, not a catchall term for anyone on the right who’s more than a little undemocratic.

            That is a right wing view. I think for a large part of the population, “fascism” is exactly that catchall term, and its application even to libertarians means that the “undemocratic” requirement is far from strict.

            If it weren’t such a loaded term (and therefore attracting all heat and no light, and therefore no longer useful for discourse), I would say that China is a fascist country – they seem to have roughly the same mixture of little political freedom and some economic freedom as long as you take care to align with the interests of the party elites people.

        • zardoz says:

          When we talk about “Silicon Valley types,” it’s helpful to remember that Silicon Valley votes overwhelmingly for mainstream Democrats. And if only the business leaders voted, the outcome would probably be to the left of the mainstream vote. Leaders like Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos are not even Republicans, let alone alt-right. (OK, so I included some Seattle business leaders in there as well, but you get the point…) There are a few people like Peter Thiel who buck the trend, and I’d like to believe that there will be more in the future, but let’s not forget the current reality.

          Also, I think what you really are talking about is the dark enlightenment stuff, not fascism or libertarianism. It’s not helpful to refer to things by the wrong labels, since all of these ideas are really quite different.

    • Nornagest says:

      Also combine this what I call crypto-fascism, the libertarian idea (that I hear from Silicon Valley types more & more) that the state is fundamentally incompetent and that we should outsource more of its functions to the private sector.

      This mostly tells me that you don’t know what fascism is. Fascism is very big on projecting an image of state capacity and competence — indeed, it’s practically defined by it. It’s true that fascist governments were often internally quite fractious and dysfunctional, but that has more to do with the psychology of strongman leadership than it does with the ideology’s goals (since the same patterns show up with left-wing strongmen). The goal is to empower the state, as the organizing body of a people, and you can bet that any sincere fascist was doing his or her level best to further that goal — just as soon as all those pesky rivals were out of the way.

      That included bringing businesses into line with state objectives. Thirties-style fascism is often described as “corporatist”, but that doesn’t mean “government by or on behalf of corporations”, it means “a state organized as a body [corpus]”. It is not laissez-faire or libertarian. Industry, and labor unionism as well, were the “limbs” of this “body” — they’re expected to serve the state’s needs, and were allowed to thrive only to the extent that they did.

    • BBA says:

      On the topic of private security replacing police, it’s something that will naturally happen if police protection becomes unreliable or disappears altogether. It’s already happening in Minneapolis and Seattle. I doubt either situation will be permanent, or that any kind of police reform/defunding/abolition will accomplish much, but only time will tell.

      As I mentioned last thread, I’ve been looking into the legal status of private security. Here in New York, a security guard isn’t automatically entitled to carry a weapon by virtue of being licensed, so most security guards are unarmed. As I understand it, many (most?) armed guards in the city are off-duty or retired police officers, as the NYPD issues weapons permits and it’s much harder to get one if you aren’t some kind of cop. But I don’t have any hard numbers on any of this.

  18. Mark V Anderson says:

    This is a very CW post. I would like not to get too much heat on this one, but instead light on where I am thinking wrong.

    There was an article in my local paper last week on a moment of silence for George Floyd at a prison in Minnesota. One of the guards blurted out during the silence something positive about Derek Chauvin (the cop that choked Floyd). People were shocked and the guard disciplined. But how is this different from athletes taking a knee during the national anthem?

    I do think the outburst was inappropriate and the guard should be moderately disciplined, but I also think that kneeling on the job is inappropriate. Is it okay to protest required workday ceremonies that are sacred to some people but chafing to others? In this case the moment of silence was pretty political as it was to “honor other lives cut short by ‘systems of racism and discrimination’ in the state.”

    As I think about this I think the main response will be that the death of George Floyd is still raw and thus disrespectful, since it was only a few weeks ago. And that makes some sense, but I wonder how long the death will remain raw, as activists seem determined to drag it out as long as possible. To me the activists should get a couple of days to shriek and moan about the situation, but not weeks.

    • GoneAnon says:

      People were shocked and the guard disciplined. But how is this different from athletes taking a knee during the national anthem?

      I was thinking about doing a long CW/effortpost on anthem protests titled something like “Yes, it is about the flag” and had this exact sort of (hypothetical) example in mind.

      Someone shouting an objection to (or even advocating for an unrelated cause) during a moment of silence would technically be well within their rights, but would also be considered incredibly rude, even if the cause was just. And if they tried to claim “This has nothing to do with George Floyd,” everyone almost certainly would not buy that explanation. This seems like a perfectly analogous situation to anthem-kneeling.

      ETA: The actual analogy I was thinking of was to try and not be about recent events – I came up with the scenario of a couple days after a school shooting, if a sporting event had a moment of silence “to honor the victims” and some person started shouting about the evils of the North Korean Government. Like, even if you agreed that the North Korean Government was evil and that people need to know more about it and that maybe Americans need to take action on it in some way… you’d consider the person doing that to be a huge jerk, and if you said they were disrespecting the victims of the school shooting, and they tried to say “No, didn’t you listen? I’m complaining about North Korea… this has nothing to do with the school shooting or its victims” you’d (accurately) point out how full of it they were.

      • Rolaran says:

        I think an important factor that your example and the prison situation have in common, that the national anthem at sporting events does not, is that it is implied to be a one-time thing to acknowledge a specific event. The national anthem is more of a ritual, in that it is done as a part of the show at a specific time every time. Thus, taking an action during the anthem can be more plausibly said to be intended as a disruption to that routine, without necessarily making a statement about the specific symbol being interrupted. Now if a moment of silence became something expected as part of a workday routine or “just something we do” at a sporting event, interrupting it, while still rude, would somewhat lose that direct connection to whatever the original reason was for the silence.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Right, so part of the question is whether symbols and rituals of the nation (the flag, the anthem, etc) deserve respect at all as a matter of social etiquette. Or to put it another way, whether people’s patriotic feelings deserve the same sort of respect as people’s feelings about the victims of police killings (or in your example school shootings). I don’t think they do, but I acknowledge that most people would find that strange.

        • GoneAnon says:

          The “moment of silence at public events following any sort of well known tragedy” is, itself, a quasi-religious ritual at this point, isn’t it?

          What makes it any more worthy of respect and dignity than a moment “to honor America” (the typical introduction for the national anthem at most American sporting events)? The fact that we have them less regularly?

    • LT says:

      Here’s a couple things that come to mind, trying as much as possible to provide light and not heat as per your request:

      –Kneeling during an anthem doesn’t necessarily prevent others from experiencing the anthem the way it’s meant to be experienced. They can still keep their eyes on the flag, their hand on their heart and sing along. (Theoretically, since the flag is high in the air, a kneeling person wouldn’t often be in your line of sight?) Speaking during a moment of silence necessarily breaks the silence for everyone who can hear it.

      –Many people lately discussing cancelling have raised the point that to the extent someone’s job is to help the company make money, etc., it makes sense, in a way, to fire them if they bring bad press to the company and impact its ability to make money. Somewhat analogously, I’d think that (1) to the extent this man is an employee and the governor is his superior (is he?), not following his superior’s order could be worthy of discipline in itself. (Did Kaepernick’s boss ever order him not to kneel?) And (2), to the extent that this man’s job is to help the correctional facility run smoothly, and to the extent that many people living in that facility can probably be expected to be angered by what happened to Floyd, this man’s actions negatively impacted the facility’s ability to carry out its mission. Kaepernick’s kneeling theoretically shouldn’t affect his ability to win football games. It may affect the team’s ability to make money if enough people were turned off by him kneeling though.

      –Power differences, a subject that seems to come up a lot in social justice discussions. The US is a 200+ year old institution that is extremely powerful and has been involved in much that’s worth criticizing over the course of its existence (it’s been involved in much good, too!). Floyd is just one guy who was killed recently. Protesting against him comes off as ‘punching down’, where protesting against the flag does not.

      –It’s known that Kaep chose to kneel as the maximally-respectful way to protest
      If the guard’s actions weren’t as well thought-out, it shouldn’t be too surprising that they didn’t end up coming off as equally respectful. If Kaep had continued sitting on the bench instead of kneeling, perhaps he wouldn’t be remembered as fondly, either.

      • GoneAnon says:

        –Kneeling during an anthem doesn’t necessarily prevent others from experiencing the anthem the way it’s meant to be experienced. They can still keep their eyes on the flag, their hand on their heart and sing along. (Theoretically, since the flag is high in the air, a kneeling person wouldn’t often be in your line of sight?) Speaking during a moment of silence necessarily breaks the silence for everyone who can hear it.

        This is a fair point. And I myself place a whole lot of the blame for the anthem-kneeling controversy on NBC, ESPN, and every other network that makes it a point to zoom-in on anthem kneelers during the broadcast, and to exhaustively discuss who kneeled and who didn’t before, during, and after, the game. If you’re in the live audience yes, it’s pretty easy to just look at the flag or the singer and not notice. But if you’re watching on TV (and the TV audience is a couple orders of magnitude higher than the in-person audience) then it’s basically impossible.

        It’s known that Kaep chose to kneel as the maximally-respectful way to protest

        Based on the opinion of one single individual. While many others disagree, many quite strongly. I think it would be more respectful for him to kneel at basically any other time. Pick a time on the clock during the game to kneel. Or kneel on the field before taking the first snap. Whatever. That’s just my opinion and he has no particular requirement or reason to care about it or respect it. But to deny he picked this moment at least in part to increase the spotlight on him and his protest seems disingenuous to me.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Kneeling during an anthem doesn’t necessarily prevent others from experiencing the anthem the way it’s meant to be experienced.

        Yeah, I thought of that after my post. It is true that the prison guard’s interruption was more disruptive. Although the guard didn’t have any other option for protest since he was only present for audio. But I agree it was more disruptive.

        I’d think that (1) to the extent this man is an employee and the governor is his superior (is he?), not following his superior’s order could be worthy of discipline in itself. (Did Kaepernick’s boss ever order him not to kneel?

        I thought this was the issue, that people were complaining that the teams weren’t letting him protest? And now I hear protests that teams won’t hire him because of his kneeling. My understanding is this is because Kaep will not agree to not kneel during the anthem. I think this is very analagous to the guard case.

        Protesting against him comes off as ‘punching down’, where protesting against the flag does not.

        Yeah this is just wrong. That’s my point, the guard is roundly criticized while Kaep is lionized. It’s obviously the guard with much less power.

        Kaep chose to kneel as the maximally-respectful way to protest

        Yeah this is just wrong too. The whole point of kneeling is to be disrespectful to the national anthem. A maximally-respectful way to protest would be not to do it during the national anthem. Like maybe to sport’s reporters after the game, or to picket something or other? It’s true that would have gotten him less attention, because being disrespectful before a a stadium of fans is more obvious.

    • quanta413 says:

      The difference in respect is rather large.

      Imagine if Kaepernick had ran up and grabbed the mic from someone singing the anthem and pulled a Kanye. I don’t think you would have seen that twice, and I think a lot more people would have been against that than against kneeling.

      • Biater says:

        I don’t think all of June and maybe July should be George Floyd Memorial month, where nothing ill can be said of him or of causes he might have supported during this time period, because that would be the same as disrespecting a dead person at their own funeral.

        But I am hearing a lot of comparisons between saying #alllivesmatter today and shouting “so what he’s dead all people die and all people matter!” at a funeral.

        • quanta413 says:

          The stupid around is rather endless, but I was only responding the part of the post comparing Kaepernick’s behavior to the prison guard’s behavior.

          It’s very bad to say “so what he’s dead” at someone’s funeral and pretty much no one is in favor of behaving that way, whereas #alllivesmatter and/or #blacklivesmatter is a matter of opinion/debate. I have nothing against someone hashtagging all over twitter. Or well, not too much against it. I find both behaviors fairly pointless, but neither is more harmful than it would be somewhere else public.

          Don’t jump in on the mic. It’s basic etiquette.

          As for how long people can complain, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. A few weeks is hardly unusual.

    • TomParks says:

      A corrections officer taunting prisoners doesn’t strike me as a pro-Chauvin protest made as political speech while expecting and accepting the possibility of negative career consequences.

    • eric23 says:

      There are lot of differences. Most of them are inconsequential. The question is which are consequential.

      Right now the predominant discourse is about frankly Marxist ideas of “systemic” discrimination and destroying power hierarchies. I don’t think this is the most productive approach, but it seems to be the most popular right now. Within this approach, the response to your question is that a statement by victims can be presumed harmless, while a statement by the oppressor class will probably lead to more oppression.

      If, on the other hand, one takes a more “all lives matter” approach that abuses of power can be dealt with on a case by case basis without theorizing about the structure of society as a whole, then I would think the relevant response is that prison guards are in positions of power and have a professional responsibility to limit their actions (on the job) in a way that will promote the best and most peaceful function of the prison. Whereas if a football player kneels on the job and the player’s employer does not object to it, none of us have any business sticking our noses into these private individuals’ business.

    • rahien.din says:

      Kaep kneeling meant “You should feel bad about black people being killed.”

      The cop’s comments meant “You shouldn’t feel so bad about black people being killed.”

      • GoneAnon says:

        Right – so the difference is, you like Kaep’s message, but you don’t like this cop’s message.

        I appreciate that you are probably honest enough to admit this publicly, but I suspect a large majority of people who defend Kaep and think this guy is getting what he deserves are not.

  19. Erusian says:

    Stalin, being a fair minded fellow, thought he had a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After all, the Palestinians had been living there a long time but the Jews also needed a homeland with its own army to prevent something like the Holocaust from repeating. He had what was, to his mind, a fairly obvious solution: carve out a third-ish of Germany and give it to the Jews. If you had to move around a bunch of Germans, or they ended up in a state that treated them as second class citizens, so what. They deserved it after the Holocaust. And that wasn’t the sort of thing that bothered Stalin anyway. He was torn about which third of Germany to give them (he tended to lean towards the south but he also thought it would be excellent for stability to remove the coal and steel resources between France and Germany and give them to the Jews).

    In real life the plan never got very far. Stalin was the only one interested in creating a homeland for the Jews (a project he’d started in the 1920s, actually). And he didn’t have such total control over Germany so he mostly prioritized other goals when negotiating with the west. Let’s say Stalin got his way and he created a Jewish state in the northwestern third of Germany (including the Ruhr and the heavy industrial areas) out of the survivors of the Holocaust and Russian Jews etc. Probably one with heavy Communist influence, considering Stalin set it up. What would be the implications for history? Would Israel and this new European state be competing for who could be the most Jewish state? How would the European Union be different?

    It’s all idle, of course, but I’ve been thinking about this lately for some reason.

    • cassander says:

      I always liked the Madagascar plan for sheer randomness.

      • Erusian says:

        The Madagascar plan is somewhat different in that the Nazis presumed the Jews would perish due to the nature of Madagascar and Jew’s inherent unfitness to survive without being parasites on more productive peoples. And also due to the continuing Nazi police state. Stalin, in contrast, saw the Jews as continuing to survive and hold the state and territory.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          the Nazis presumed the Jews would perish due to the nature of Madagascar and Jew’s inherent unfitness to survive without being parasites on more productive peoples.

          I forget my citations, but some Zionists agreed with the stereotype that Jews were physically weak and treated Israel as a social engineering project to make muscular working-class Jews who were handy with guns.
          I guess that worked.

          • cassander says:

            Some nazis thought that, but there were other proponents of the basic plan whose intentions weren’t murderous.

          • Yair says:

            You do not need citations. Practically all branches of Zionism in Palestine explicitly set to create a new type of Jew, muscular working-class Jews who were handy with guns. A people like all people, with a working-class, soldiers and farmers.

            It was a core belief of Labour Zionism and therefore became a mainstream view in Israel from the very start, and probably just about the only thing that the Revisionists agreed with the Labour Zionist majority.

          • rumham says:

            set to create a new type of Jew, muscular working-class Jews who were handy with guns.

            I know (knew) two men who fought for Israel in the late 40s and 50s (one was a relative). They fit this mold to a T. I had no idea that creating this class was a stated goal, but they definitely had some seriously able starting stock to work with.

    • Butterreiniger says:

      I’m going to take a stab at playing this out. I have a degree in German Studies, plus I’ve lived in Eastern Europe and spent a decent amount of time reading about the history of the Soviet Union. And I’m Jewish, for what it matters. So, a few things that immediately stick out to me.

      1. To state the obvious, Germany in 1945 was really anti-Semitic. There’s polling data from the 40s and 50s that showed an overwhelming majority of Germans really disliked Jews, with (if I’m remembering correctly) a near majority supporting extermination. That wasn’t so important in 1945, because, well, there weren’t really any Jews left in Germany, outside of displaced persons camps, but if every German in the most densely populated region of Germany was suddenly forced out of their homes, it absolutely would have. This is a massive butterfly. I genuinely don’t think Germany, even led by a sympathetic government, would have been able to largely purge Antisemitism if a huge section of the population had an experience where they lost everything in order for the Jews to have something. I don’t know what would have come from that, but it wouldn’t have been good. A more nationalistic Germany, at the very least.

      2. At the end of the war, Germany was in shambles. Cities were bombed flat, the Red Army had torn through the Eastern half, and vital infrastructure was destroyed. Cases of disease and hunger had skyrocketed. Now, on top of that, Germany had a massive refugee crisis. This was two-fold. There were millions of slave laborers who’s been brought to Germany and now needed to return home, and, way more of an issue for the Germans, the Eastern Germans were being driven into Germany. Historically, millions of Germans had lived in Eastern Europe. Think of places like the Sudetenland, now in Czechia, and Konigsberg, now Kaliningrad. Stalin wanted them gone. These people were typically less well educated and poorer than people in Germany proper, and millions of them arrived in the span of a few years. Housing and caring for them was one of the biggest challenges facing West Germany. Now, add in a third of the country out of reach and another refugee crisis of similar proportions. If the world had its act together (and big if, there) there would be enough food and at least tents. But from what I’ve read about the subject, that wouldn’t have happened. Likely we’re looking at tens of thousands of additional deaths at an absolute minimum.

      3. I don’t think the Jews wanted this. I’ve read some first-hand accounts from this time, and lots of people mentions Jews being completely, absolutely focused on emigration to Palestine. Could they have been made to stay? Sure, if you forced them, probably with arms. But at the very least, there’d be serious illegal migration issues.

      4. I don’t think it would have affected Israel’s early history too much. From my understanding, Holocaust survivors weren’t a vital part of the IDF/Haganah. The core there was composed of people who’d been living in Palestine for some time. Holocaust survivors did fight, but they were viewed by Palestinian Israelis (?) as weak and cowardly. So I’m not sure this would be a big butterfly there. It would, however, mean that Israel going forward was much more Middle Eastern and much less European (assuming the Mizrahi were still forced out of Middle Eastern countries). I can’t speculate on how that would change its politics, but it would certainly be a big change in the culture.

      5. Now, on to the EU. There’s a giant butterfly here. If the Jews got Germany’s industrial and mining center, would there even be an EU? It started from the European Coal and Steel Community, after all. France wanted this organization to integrate Germany and make war impossible, but would they have done it with Germany divided in three, instead of two? Would they have even wanted to integrate with a Jewish, Communist-backed state?

      6. The last one depends on its exact borders, but if it doesn’t border East Germany, the USSR has a problem. The Soviets were able to crush revolts in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary because were surrounded by satellite countries. If this state had no border with another communist country, the minute it revolts, the airport can be shut down and Soviet reinforcements are locked out. If it was a satellite state, there’d be a big garrison there, but that’d get expensive, because they probably couldn’t just keep supplying it by air. If it does border East Germany, less of an issue.

      There’s a few other butterflies I can think of, but here’s my best guess: more anti-Semitism worldwide, including in the US; a weakened Germany with a chip on its shoulder; a weaker Israel (less population, plus I don’t think they would have received so much funding from the Germans as reparations, and Ashkenazi Jews were/are better educated than Mizrahim); potentially less European integration; a gigantic headache for US military planners (easy location to get stabbed in the back from, it reminds me of the planning done with regards to Kaliningrad).

      I’ve thought about this to, tbh, from a different source. The King of Saudi Arabia apparently had a pretty similar suggestion. I believe he thought Bavaria was the best location for it.

    • Clutzy says:

      Farbeit for me to suggest Stalin wasn’t a great guy, but doesn’t that just mostly sound like a plan for weakening a geopolitical rival and creating a buffer state?

    • DeWitt says:

      Idle? Thought experiment?

      Stalin did get to try and create a Jewish state, he just didn’t get to do it in Germany. There’s no need to speculate when you can read what happened right there!

      • Erusian says:

        I’m very aware of Stalin’s arguments with Lenin over territorial homelands and his subsequent execution of that policy. I’ve also read books about his first attempt at a Jewish homeland and had a friend who went there. (There were no Jews there, though there were a lot of Russians/Cossacks curious to learn about Jews.) While the liquidation before World War 2 was a tragedy, one that drove Jews west and ultimately into Nazi death camps, it’s not the question I’m asking.

        Because, to be clear, I condemn Stalin as a terrible person. If you asked me if Stalin or Hitler was worse I would have serious difficulty deciding.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Judenstaat.

      “It is 1988. Judit Klemmer is a filmmaker who is assembling a fortieth-anniversary official documentary about the birth of Judenstaat, the Jewish homeland surrendered by defeated Germany in 1948. Her work is complicated by Cold War tensions between the competing U.S. and Soviet empires and by internal conflicts among the “black-hat” Orthodox Jews, the far more worldly Bundists, and reactionary Saxon nationalists, who are still bent on destroying the new Jewish state. But Judit’s work has far more personal complications. A widow, she has yet to deal with her own heart’s terrible loss—the very public assassination of her husband, Hans Klemmer, shot dead while conducting a concert. Then a shadowy figure slips her a note, with new and potentially dangerous information about her famous husband’s murder. Then the ghost steps in…”

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      He managed to move Poland 200 miles to the west (and still control it) so Stalin got a lot of what he wanted. In the end, his side of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was largely honoured by the Allied Powers, with the exception of Finland (they fought dirty and they fought hard, they were somewhat in the Soviet sphere of influence afterwards but they remained free).

  20. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So it’s not clear to me what “slavery is wrong” implies should, morally, have happened in modern history.

    I’ve found Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild a good history of abolitionism (Hochschild is a co-founder of Mother Jones, which is either terrible or a boon depending on your interlocutor).

    The movement’s first success was Somerset v Stewart, 1772, when judge Lord Mansfield found in the case of a customs officer named Charles Stewart who tried to keep the slave from the Colonies James Somerset in England:

    The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law [statute], which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.

    The inconveniences were that this judge had just left the legality of a basic economic system in the colonies up in the air. As Hochschild perceptively notes, “[in 1772] freedom, not bondage, was the peculiar institution.”
    Within a few years, the American Revolution broke out, and Royal Governors in rebel colonies abolished slavery where they had boots on the ground, without touching the institution in other British colonies like the much more economically-important Caribbean islands.

    In 1807, Parliament passed The Slave Trade Act 1807. It’s only slightly oversimplifying to say that this Act committed the Royal Navy to gunboat diplomacy everywhere on Earth that slaves were purchased by ship. The Sultanate of Zanzibar had a huge old slave market that the Christian people of Britain, through their Parliament’s control of the world’s most powerful Navy, forced to shut down with nine warships off the coast and they built an Anglican cathedral on top of it. Over on the central west coast of Africa, around 50 Pagan kings were forced to sign anti-slavery laws by gunboat diplomacy.
    Most of this activity, of course, postdated 1833, when Parliament banned slavery in Britain’s own sugar colonies.

    So two big obvious questions this raises are:
    1) Morally, should the 13 American colonies have remained part of the British Empire?
    2) If slavery is the greatest evil, isn’t the British Empire forcing its laws on Africa (and everywhere else slavery was legal in 1833) the most good act humans have ever coordinated?

    Complicating matters: British law did not consider the Royal Navy abducting men from coastal pubs and forcing them to serve in the Royal Navy under the lash to be slavery. How does impressing more white men so as to have a stronger Navy to go force Muslims and black Pagans to stop trading or owning slaves shake out morally?

    • Erusian says:

      The official narrative is profoundly disinterested in intellectual rigor per se and profoundly interested in current policy prescriptions. For example, the University of St. Andrews has established a reparations fund. It was pointed out by some grouchy conservatives that if you want to pay reparations, the tiny amount of money donated by slavers pales in comparison to the amount of oppression, exclusion, and outright theft (including of the entire university!) that was done against Catholics. But the point is to support the policy prescriptions the interlocutor believes will support racial justice, not to rigorously create a coherent worldview. They knew the result they wanted to end up at (scholarships for black students) and found a reason to justify that.

      I’m actually fairly sympathetic to the goal but not to the justifications. And I’m happy to take a good old SSC dogpile if you want to have that fight. I think that trying to eternalize and historicize the conflict gets into dodgy history and a lot obscure academic points. The truth is that African Americans do suffer from a number of social pathologies and that they have a real experience of racism. They are also hugely disproportionately impoverished. And I think American society is at least largely responsible for that and should work to alleviate that. (Then again, I also think that about Native Americans, rural Americans, and several other groups.)

      I’m not even sure they could specifically articulate what they want in the sense that a certain bill would make them feel better. But they feel under threat and like America needs to undergo fairly fundamental changes to alleviate that threat and bring them into full and equal citizenship. And I think this is fair. I heartily disagree with the current system’s changes and think it’s meant to transmute racial anger into the preservation of class privilege. (“Hey, we won’t stop the police from brutalizing you but there will be some elite blacks hanging around in mansions. We cool?”) But I think the idea that minorities, particularly African Americans and Native Americans, are victims of unfair social systems is basically true.

      If you accept this, slavery then serves as a useful totem as something that everyone is against. Something that the Democrats don’t want to defend and the Republicans are proud they abolished. Something that is a strong point in favor of the idea that Africans have unique and disadvantageous circumstances. And something with emotional resonance for every American.

      So the official narrative is basically one of anti-racist interventionism. I’ve had fruitful discussions even criticizing fairly important planks of Democrat’s racial narrative from the point of view not that blacks aren’t oppressed but that the narrative is mistaken about causes and remedies. It’s when you run into telling African Americans they aren’t oppressed they have a hostile reaction, sensing (ime) that it’s an attempt to perpetuate what they think is a discriminatory system. Which, again, is a premise I’ll defend if you want me to.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The official narrative is profoundly disinterested in intellectual rigor per se and profoundly interested in current policy prescriptions.

        You can’t prescribe factually and morally correct policies without intellectual rigor!
        screams in Aquinas’s Latin for ten minutes

        • Erusian says:

          Perhaps not. Yet I think part of the point is that other policies go on without such rigor in many cases. Indeed, I’ve met a great deal of exhaustion with the very need to justify the policies themselves. Though I must admit, on that count I’m unsympathetic.

        • Tarpitz says:

          What does it mean for a policy to be factually correct?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Does what it claims it will do.” Forcing people to do things that factually will not achieve the stated goal seems wrong. You can take Marxist truth claims about how to grow food as an extreme example.

        • Incurian says:

          Haha, pen and phone go brrrrrr.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Is the problem then that “reparative” (need a less loaded word) social welfare payments are an easier sell than more intellectually disinterested attempts at remedying inequality? Instead of seeing the reduction of inequality (whether it be in treatment by police or family wealth across racial lines) as a good in and of itself, the arguments are seen as being more effective if couched in moral outrage/guilt?

        They knew the result they wanted to end up at (scholarships for black students) and found a reason to justify that.

        This what probably makes people here disproportionately angry to their mean political orientation. I too agree with the ends (increased black college enrollment), but the process you describe of rationalizing the method seems intellectually shoddy.

        I think you’re spot on describing minority unease with the current state of affairs as a response to an atmosphere rather than specific set of slights. But if the focus of the response to this inimical atmosphere is to address the remnants of slavery (when, say, erasing the lingering effects of racist 1940’s housing policies may be a more efficacious avenue of attack) then it will become increasingly incoherent as the problems faced by African Americans become more divorced from the institution. (To say nothing of the problems of Native Americans/Rural Americans/others mentioned, whose issues are not advanced nearly as well by the focus on slavery)

        • Erusian says:

          African Americans are a minority, a fairly small one all things considered (about 10% of the population). They aren’t particularly wealthy. They have cultural influence but a lot of that is based on trading on an identity that’s inherently not as threatening. (As much as rappers talk about violence, criminal violence is less of a threat to the current system. Especially when it mostly takes place in the hood.) So they tend to attach their actual goal to whatever party they’re a part of wants. Republicans want industry and a compliant South? Great, give us a piece of that industry and some of those political slots. Democrats want a huge welfare state? Well, we certainly are very poor and need some help there! Etc.

          African Americans do have political influence but they can’t drive the conversation. They can create conversations about themselves but driven primarily by other groups. White cultural elites, largely progressive, right now. This means they’re constrained in their political moves. Add in the fact that African Americans who rise to true prominence tend to have to get past white gatekeepers and you have a recipe for a group that somewhat conforms to the needs of the wagon they’re hitching their ride to.

          I don’t think the current conversation is about slavery because that’s what black people want to talk about. I think it’s about slavery because it’s what progressive journalists and the African Americans they let into their newsrooms want to talk about. I suspect you’d get a much, much more modern picture if you had a more genuinely on the street message.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        So another big problem: slavery is “America’s Original Sin” that demands certain policy prescriptions. So why are demands being made in other Western countries through riots? Despite being called “America’s”, the taint of this Original Sin doesn’t seem to be limited to one nationality. Is it white people’s Original Sin? Who’s white, anyway?
        Was slavery ethical in the Ottoman Empire?

        • Ketil says:

          So why are demands being made in other Western countries through riots?

          I think one mistake is expecting some kind of coherent reasoning behind these things. After all we got the US riots after deaths which had no apparent link to racism. But with highly visceral videos combined with a longstanding and oft-retold narrative that blames all your problems on certain outgroups, the results are what they are.

          As for Europe, I think European radicals just like to emulate American radicals. Quantitatively speaking, we get a lot of news from the US. (Qualitatively, it’s more like the more political section of CNN clipped down to headlines only) I expect Europeans watched and wanted to be part of the glorious struggle against racism.

          A good example is tearing down statues of Churchill. This makes little sense if you consider history, but is plainly just mimicking the tearing down of Confederate (and now also Union) generals.

          • Aapje says:

            I’ve noticed that the foreign reporting in my Dutch newspaper is far more one-sided and radical than national reporting. It seems that the information for many stories comes purely from one side of the culture war.

          • DeWitt says:

            Yeah, I’ve noticed that as well. I’m not sure if it is because the Dutch media get their own sources from much more leftist journalists abroad, or because it is the natural contrast between ourselves and the rest of the world coming through.

        • John Schilling says:

          So why are demands being made in other Western countries through riots?

          Same reason that e.g. Frence protesters were including “Free Mumia” placards in just about every march, protest, or riot for a decade or two. It’s fun, it’s hip, it taps into the casual anti-Americanism so annoyingly prevalent in too much of Europe, and it’s safe and it’s cheap in a way that picking a fight over local issues often isn’t.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s funny that in expressing their anti-American ideas, they are adopting American centric issues into their own culture, making themselves all the more a cultural province of America.

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            Some number of decades down the road we’re going to be blamed for this act of neo-imperialism.

          • John Schilling says:

            making themselves all the more a cultural province of America.

            If you’re going to be a cultural province of America no matter what the Académie Française says, it kind of makes sense that you’d want to protest what you see as objectionable aspects of American culture. Not that you’ll be able to do anything about it, but again – safe easy fun so might as well.

        • Clutzy says:

          Because its wrong, as a mental model, to think of these rioters as unorganized responses to police brutality. They are a force projection by left wing institutions attempting to seize victory in the culture war. Its best to think of them as state or party actors that, thanks to the internet, can organize in less easily identifiable ways.

          • SamChevre says:

            Is +10 a possible response?

          • WayUpstate says:

            I’m assuming you’re differentiating between the millions of peaceful demonstrators – many of which are no doubt acting in support of “left wing institutions” – and the small bunch of criminal rioters that, as far as I can tell, are acting in no ones interest but their own and should be treated as the criminals that they are. They are aligned with no cause but whatever momentary impulse popped into their brains in the minute before they broke that window.

          • gbdub says:

            Plenty of rioters (if by rioter we mean “person attending a political rally with the intent of engaging in violence”) are politically motivated, e.g. the more organized Antifa groups in Berkeley and Portland. Sometimes the idea is to spark larger violence from more opportunistic rioters. Antifa vs. the Proud Boys seem to be kind of organized rumbles – both groups obviously politically motivated.

            Looters do seem to mostly be out for themselves.

          • WayUpstate says:

            @gbdub I think we agree but frankly ANTIFA by its own definition is an unaffiliated bunch of small groups defined by a shared hatred of extremists on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Ergo, I put them in the no-particular-reason-for-doing-what-they-do category and differentiate them from the millions marching peacefully. I’ve no time for them.

          • gbdub says:

            They have a very distinct, openly stated reason for doing what they do: they believe violence, or at least the distinct threat thereof, is justified to counter “fascists”. I don’t agree that they act on “whatever momentary impulse popped into their brains”. (Also, I’m not saying these people are Antifa, but several riots involved Molotov cocktails used to burn cop cars and fireworks thrown at cops… those also are not “momentary impulses”)

            If you think they are too small in number to really matter in the context of these particular protests, I think then we agree.

          • Clutzy says:

            I’m assuming you’re differentiating between the millions of peaceful demonstrators – many of which are no doubt acting in support of “left wing institutions” – and the small bunch of criminal rioters that, as far as I can tell, are acting in no ones interest but their own and should be treated as the criminals that they are. They are aligned with no cause but whatever momentary impulse popped into their brains in the minute before they broke that window.

            Not at all. My statement ONLY applies to the rioters, not to the peaceful protesters who, when not acting as interference for the rioters, are simply a legitimate political movement.

            The rioters, OTOH, act only in areas where the local officials tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) approve of their actions. Their serious criminal acts were allowed via stand down orders, and have not been prosecuted after the fact. It is, thus, a campaign to terrorize the rest of the populace that is being actively allowed by the local officials. This is exactly the conduct that led to the Enforcement acts of 1870 and 1871 being passed. This is why notably, almost all of the serious prosecutions have been brought by federal officials.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        I’m just going to say that the way you really earn respect for yourself – and your people – is to fight honestly through the real or alleged oppressions and come out on top. I’m okay with investing in stuff that promotes opportunities to do that. (And obviously slavery removes the possibility of doing it, so that’s another argument against slavery, if you needed one.)

    • Skeptic says:

      Barely on topic response, I apologize.

      Mother Jones is a treasure because of Kevin Drum.

      I disagree with his policy stances probably 70-85% of the time. I also become constantly peeved as a stats guy that he excessively extrapolates from mono-variable excel charts which control for absolutely nothing.

      However….. his framework is to attempt to use data to inform his opinions. That alone means we have some common view of the world.

    • cassander says:

      1) Morally, should the 13 American colonies have remained part of the British Empire?

      America has worked out pretty well, all things considered, but if I’d been around then, I’d almost certainly have said yes. Our grounds for rebellion was pretty thin, and revolution is a risky business.

      That said, I don’t see how america could have stayed in the empire without getting some formal political representation. If those irish catholic savages (apologies Deiseach!) could manage to get 100 MPs in 1800, the colonies would have have been able to wrangle at least a couple dozen. If the US had been part of the UK, it’s almost certain that british anti-slavery policies would have not been as strenuous as they were.

      2) If slavery is the greatest evil, isn’t the British Empire forcing its laws on Africa (and everywhere else slavery was legal in 1833) the most good act humans have ever coordinated?

      the british abolished the oceanic slave trade, not slavery. If you traded slaves over land, you were fine.

      • eric23 says:

        If those irish catholic savages (apologies Deiseach!) could manage to get 100 MPs in 1800, the colonies would have have been able to wrangle at least a couple dozen.

        I imagine they only got those MPs after having seen what happened when they refused to give Americans MPs.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Would the British Empire ban slavery if not for the American Revolution? Somehow I doubt that.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        So assume the Empire loses the American Revolution. Would the most ethical possible thing to do in 1833 be to build a bigger military and conquer as much territory where slavery is legal as possible as fast as possible?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Why? Somerset was four years before the rebellion broke out.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Christian colonial powers like England, but also France, Holland and others, had by the time of Somerset well established practice where they allowed slavery in the colonies, but did not brought slaves into the home country, at least not in any sort of large numbers. I suspect it is likely that if it would not be for three successive revolutions shortly after it (American, French, and very importantly Haitian) Somerset case would in retrospect look like fiddling with the details of a robust economic system of slave exploitation.

          But of course we will never know for sure.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Christian colonial powers like England, but also France, Holland and others, had by the time of Somerset well established practice where they allowed slavery in the colonies, but did not brought slaves into the home country, at least not in any sort of large numbers. I suspect it is likely that if it would not be for three successive revolutions shortly after it (American, French, and very importantly Haitian) Somerset case would in retrospect look like fiddling with the details of a robust economic system of slave exploitation.

            But why, though? Britain didn’t get much money from its North American colonies, still less from the slave plantations therein, and the American Revolution didn’t cause the end of the plantation system anyway. By 1807 most of Britain, and almost all of the ruling classes, saw the French Revolution as an example of dangerous radicalism, not the sort of thing they’d look to for inspiration. And if the Haitian revolution had any noticeable effect on the British abolitionist movement, no history book I’ve ever read has mentioned it.

    • JPNunez says:

      If you drank some pints at a pub with some bloke called Horatio, and you woke up with a huge migraine and a sailor suit at the battle of Trafalgar, your kids won’t be forced to go into the navy as well, so I think the moral maths go reasonably well.

  21. Uribe says:

    Imagine solar and wind energy electricity storage become dirt cheap but electricity storage and transportation do not. What would be the result with regard to human migration around the US (or another country, or around the world)?

    What I’m really wondering is how much of a constraint fresh water is if say, you’ve got unlimited free electricity in the desert but not in many other places. How many people can live in New Mexico or Arizona? What would you do to get these places more water under these free power conditions?

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      Energy transportation already is cheap, and green energy is too. Our problem is 100% storage–even now Denmark, with tons of renewables, has to pay Norway to take their excess energy on particularly windy/sunny days because energy is very difficult to store. So unless I’m completely wrong about transportation (I’m not an EE), your question only makes sense assuming that energy transportation is more expensive than in our current world.

      If we are no longer able to transport energy via power lines, but DO have unlimited free energy, I think that there are ways to draw water out of the air using electricity, such as with dehumidifiers. So I guess we get giant dehumidifiers to draw all the water out of the desert, and we drink it out of the collection tray.

      • Uribe says:

        I’m aware of negative rates in Denmark and Ontario but my understanding is that transportation is expensive. I once read about an idea to transport power from the Sahara to Europe which lead to study that concluded “It turns out electricity is one of the most expensive things in the world to transport.”

        In the USA most of the sun and wind are in the West whereas most of the people are in the East. If solar and wind power really are the future, will we move the power to the people or the people to the power?

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Its not expensive – it is, however, politically fraught. There was a German energy consortium with the basic plan of “Build solar in the Sahara, run power lines north” and their prospectus costed all this out, it looked very good, financially. However, nobody wants their power plants located in politically unstable neighboring countries, so it would only work, politically, if the EU swallowed up North Africa…

          • Murphy says:

            Yep, solar panels in northern africa looks great… right up until the government changes and notices that they have the other countries by the balls and a vast pile of easily-nationalised expensive hardware sitting within their borders that belongs to foreign investors.

          • Gerry Quinn says:

            The Romans did it, so it can happen.

    • WayUpstate says:

      I suppose you could pipe your electrons to the coast, desalinate all the water you wanted, and pump it back. But, for what? More places like Scottsdale? Blah.

      Arizona and the SW should grow to support the limits of what they can provide internally and no more. How? Make the cost of that water flowing through your tap exactly what it costs including all the externalities and federal freebies added in. I know I’m dreaming on this and don’t think the ability to desalinate all that water at no environmental cost would change my mind. Outside the central basin, AZ can be quite nice so why muck it up?

      • Uribe says:

        I picked AZ and NM as examples but I meant anywhere in the West where the sun shines most of the time and the land is plentiful and therefore cheap. I imagine people would be motivated to move there mostly for commercial purposes not because their residential power bill would be zero.

        • WayUpstate says:

          OK, got it. Is water really the issue in the central basin areas west of the Rockies and north of Phoenix? Yes, I can see it is a constraint but even in a low cost/impact power environment will your costs have gone up enough getting water to make the low density areas of the east more desirable economically (and buy/transport the cheap power from the west). Lots of excess infrastructure in the rust belt and it’s cheap! Seems to me, there would have to be some other incentives beyond cheap power.

          • Uribe says:

            I had been thinking how rustbelt cities are located where they are not just to be on a waterway for transportation but because that wat+erway was also the cheapest source of electrical power at the time. By analogy, I wondered if some hellishly hot location may be the next Buffalo.

            But like you say, there is no other advantage I can think of, whereas Buffalo had at least three.

    • eric23 says:

      Not much. Electricity availability has a significant effect on industrial location, but little effect on residential location.

      There is not really a water shortage in Arizona, or California, or anywhere in the US. A high proportion of potable water is being used unnecessarily for agriculture. This could be all diverted for human use, and agriculture supplied by “grey water” instead. Or else the supply of potable water could be increased by desalination, but this is already affordable at current electric rates.

      • sharper13 says:

        Yeah. Arizona specifically has a nuclear power plant and plenty of river water. They sell the excess electricity to neighboring states (CA) and much of the water is also passed on as a result of long-lived agreements. What is used in state is primarily (68%) for agriculture, not people directly.

        California imports electricity, mostly because the people prefer to elect legislatures who would rather do that than produce their own within the state (revealed preference).

        They also import water (See CA aqueduct) for central/southern CA, and their water is again mostly (80%) used for agriculture. They could use their own mountain water rather than importing, but again, their revealed preference is to use that for environmental projects/goals rather than store it somewhere to replace the imported water.

  22. Plumber says:

    @Nick, 

    This seemed up your alley, from: Take Back the Streets From the Automobile
    With people hunkered down at home, cities should act quickly to find a better balance between cars and pedestrians and cyclists.
     

    By Justin Gillis and Heather Thompson

    June 20, 2020 in The New York Times:

    “Since cities came to exist 5,000 years ago, epidemics have shaped their fate.

    Plagues weakened the Roman Empire and may have helped bring it down. The sewers that cleaned up a filthy London in the 19th century were built in direct response to a cholera outbreak. Many of the great urban parks, including Central Park in New York City, were similarly planned after epidemics, to provide more open space.

    Today, the coronavirus pandemic, in all its horror, opens the prospect of sweeping urban change. Cities suddenly see the possibility of correcting their greatest mistake of the 20th century, the surrender of too much public space to the automobile.

    Cities need to seize this moment and move at lightning speed. We need to find a better balance between the cars on our streets and the bicyclists and pedestrians who have, for decades, been neglected and pushed to the margins.

    All over the world, forward-looking cities large and small have already jumped into action. In Medellin, the innovative Colombian city nestled in the Andes, workers are seizing traffic lanes and slapping down yellow paint to signify a change: Cars have been evicted and the lanes are now reserved for bicyclists. In Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the authorities have closed streets, encouraged cycling, and sped the construction of new bike lanes and walkways. In European cities, “corona cycleways” have become the new norm.

    In New York, the city has responded to community demands by pledging to set aside 100 miles of roads in the next few weeks for people on foot or bike, largely closing the streets to traffic during daylight hours. Letting people dine at tables in the middle of the road may help in the salvation of New York restaurants. Across the country in Oakland, Calif., the city has decided to close nearly 10 percent of its streets. And in the middle of the country, Kansas City, Mo., was one of the first to limit traffic and turn parking spots into mini-parks to extend restaurant service.

    This is a golden moment for the movement known as tactical urbanism. More than 200 cities have already announced road closings in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of cities have yet to act in any bold way, however. If they do not, they may miss what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

    The circumstances that give rise to this situation are lamentable, of course, just as were the cholera epidemics that altered cities in the 19th century. Bicycling is booming — bike stores are reporting record sales and order backlogs — as people look for easier means to get around and find streets with reduced traffic to be safer and more congenial. Cities are finding they can make bold moves to accommodate all the new bikers and walkers because the drivers who would normally object to street closings are hunkered down in their homes.

    The suppression of automotive traffic is giving us a vivid illustration of the potential future benefits of cleaning up our cities. Air pollution, which kills millions of people every year, is down nearly everywhere. In Mexico City, measurements of the smallest, deadliest particles have fallen by about half. The Indian government has publicly reported that several pollution measures are down as much as 70 percent in New Delhi; in some cities, Indian children are able to see distant mountains for the first time in their lives.

    Most of the road closures announced so far have been billed as temporary, meant to last until the pandemic loosens its grip. The willingness of drivers to leave their cars parked is certainly not going to last. What can cities do to make sure they hold on to the recent gains as the economy reopens?

    To answer that, we return to a phrase we used earlier: tactical urbanism. For the last couple of decades, this movement has been seizing moments of opportunity to improve urban life.

    Sometimes a city government is the instigator, as in 2009, when New York closed several blocks of Broadway, one of the busiest streets in the city, to traffic. Sometimes citizens employ guerrilla tactics — converting a vacant lot into a miniature park or garden, for instance, or throwing up orange traffic cones in the middle of the night to create a bike lane.

    The basic idea is to show people the benefits of a change, however temporary, in order to shift the political dynamic in favor of a more permanent alteration. You can bet that parents whose bored children are suddenly able to ride their bikes in the Oakland streets are seeing this whole set of issues with new eyes.

    When Broadway was closed, thousands of New Yorkers flooded the street, delightedly plopping down in cheap lawn chairs the city had set out on the pavement. From that moment, the vision of a Broadway for people took hold, and the blocks of Broadway through Times Square have been closed to traffic for a decade.

    Similarly, tactical urbanist projects all over the world have led to closed streets, new parks and many other amenities. A large majority of these projects entail reclaiming public space from the automobile. A third or more of the space in any city is devoted to streets, and in the middle of the last century, much of that was converted to traffic lanes and free parking spaces.

    Today, we have been thrust into perhaps the greatest opportunity ever for tactical urbanism. With traffic missing from the streets, people are sensing how completely cars dominate them in normal times, endangering the lives of the pedestrians and cyclists squeezed into tiny strips along the margins. This situation was never sensible or moral, but until now, fixing it was politically impossible in many cities.

    A viral twist of fate has given us a chance to alter the balance, creating streets that work for everyone. Cities that were thinking about lane changes or street closures before the pandemic should move quickly to try them out, and the most popular should be made permanent. Government leaders must pay particular attention to poor neighborhoods, which tend to be forgotten but whose people have just as much right to bike and walk as anyone else. Those neighborhoods are often deprived of parks or sports fields, so a street with few or no cars can be a godsend for children.

    In the end, reclaiming streets will not be enough to lock in improved air quality and other benefits. Every city needs a comprehensive program of car control. Some, like London, are already banning the most polluting vehicles, and a few have gone so far as to declare they will no longer allow fuel-burning engines after 2030 or 2035. In those towns, you will drive an electric car if you drive at all.

    Cities need to follow the lead of London, Singapore and more recently New York in enacting stiff congestion charges that discourage unnecessary driving, with the money plowed into mass transit, as well as more protected lanes for walking and cycling.

    Cities need to be designed for the well-being and health of people, not for cars. We don’t have time to wait. Now is the moment for cities to imagine that future and start willing it into being.”

    Lots of links in the original, but I’m still suspicious of “Urbanism” which usually claims to want Jane Jacobs Greenwich Village style development (which seems to me a fine goal) but what I see in San Francisco (and to a lesser extent Oakland and Berkeley) is those sorts of housing replaced by Hong Kong/central Manhattan style developments, and the calls of “my dream home is now a townhouse” really seem to me to be encouraging policies to destroy them and replace them with skyscrapers instead, leaving the wide streets post war suburbs the same but without the pre-war neighborhoods that are in-between maximum urban and maximum suburban as an alternative to both, and based on where people actually bid up my tastes match most people:

    1) Pre-war “street car suburbs” for families with children. 

    2) Boston (in the ’90’s and before) townhouse style developments for childless couples and couples with an infant.

    3) Post-war wide street suburbs a distant third

    4) Post-war “howling wind” tower blocks a far distant fourth, tied with “There be Dragons” rural areas (good for vacations, but I like being able to walk home from the auto mechanic and the grocer).

    Besides fear of bombs there’s a reason our grandparents had a mass exodus out of the tenements!

    If I ever see many new developments in the style of surviving pre-war streetcar neighborhoods (either attached or detached) I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but mostly all I’ve seen is skyscrapers and “McMansions”, and I say no thanks to both! Preserve the places people actually want to live as long as possible until good alternatives come back in any scale (which I doubt I’ll live long enough to see). 

    Ten to twenty years ago I saw a few townhouse developments on what had been open space in and near San Jose, California, but, while better than skyscrapers, had no corner markets and shops, and instead had “commercial centers” only accessible by long scary walks across multiple lanes, or by automobile, so the worst of both, you still had to drive for most errands and you still got to hear the screams and stereos from the other side of the wall so doubly LAME!

    In the last 20 years there’s been far more new developments around then in the 30 years previous, but frankly it’s not attractive, we know what’s attractive, our great-grandparents built it, but as far as I can tell YIMBY’s destroy those neighborhoods and NIMBY’s prevent new one’s like them.

    I’ve seen the argument that eliminating zoning rules could get back the surviving pre-war style, but did it and does it? The best neighborhoods around here were mostly built in the ’20’s and ’30’s, and zoning started earlier than that, besides what’s left of pre-war is “greatest hits” that have survived, what was the rest like? And do places in the North America with weaker zoning have better neighborhoods (I don’t know, I’ve only seen California, D.C. Montreal, Ottawa, and Seattle, and have heard my wife’s descriptions of Boston, Hong Kong, and Manhattan)?

    Seems easier to capture zoning than eliminate it and trust the free market, sure people “vote with their wallets” for existing good neighborhoods, but it doesn’t look like market incentives encourage the building of them (otherwise walls would still be plaster instead of shoddy drywall!). Though I know some of this is the fault of the Fire Department and their cursed insistence on wide streets when what lives are saved by a faster responses are lost instead to automobile crashes.

    I know that you live in Ohio Nick, so you see other things, but over here it increasingly looks like new developments are either the shadowed wind tunnel streets of the newer developments of San Francisco, or the endless parking lots of Santa Clara County (sure there’s nice areas in both SF and SCC – but all prewar).

    I just don’t like urban YIMBY’s or newer suburb NIMBY’s, I want OSMDWCBSSIMBY -old-style-medium-density-with-small-shops-in-my-backyard.

    How do we get more of that?

    • WayUpstate says:

      I’m with you on most of this as I also like to walk home from the grocery and auto mechanic and I can though I live in a village of 3000 nestled in a rural township of 7000 so not really what you had in mind.

      I think the big cities are unlikely to get where you want them to be (at least in the next 20 yrs) though I was surprised at the progress made in DC 2000-2016 at least in the NW neighborhoods where low rise traditional townhomes and single-family housing made a comeback and rose significantly in value while the condo towers (limited to 11 floors or less in DC making the scale much more human) were limited to areas where there was already a good mix of retail and restaurants making for nicely walkable neighborhoods. The last six years of my DC experience I was able to bike to work and the excellent bike lanes facilitated that. DC is an oddity in the US and looks a lot more like London in scale (minus the absurd London high-rises built in the last 20 years). It does drive up prices but the price is probably worth having all the human-scale neighborhoods a short metro ride to the principal industry (Pentagon & Capitol Hill). We’re never going to see Manhattan return to more Greenwich village scale housing (which continues to disappear under glass towers) though the recent crisis will hopefully slow down the relentless gentrification in the east village.

      I think for real innovation, we need to look at the smaller and mid-size cities looking to attract some big city ‘refugees’ and where property prices remain low enough that the business interests can’t instantly overwhelm any ground-level initiatives. In NY state, this would mean Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and a list of smaller cities no one’s heard of all of which have an extreme abundance of fresh water, excess infrastructure, relatively cheap power, and development offices willing and able to hand out multiple year tax exemptions/abatements with even the flimsiest of business plans (even when they shouldn’t). Syracuse is actually going to tear down the ill-advised freeway built through the city center and make the city much more walkable and appealing to potential residents and information-based businesses. FWIW, the older suburbanites are fighting this but barring a change in Democratic state control it will probably stick. These upstate cities have the resources to support cultural enterprises, and the low prices to attract businesses that need some real estate. Whether they can fight their older residents that like car-dependent suburbs is another matter and certainly a question mark.

      There must be some places well north of SF in CA that could resist the ‘suburbanization’ tendencies of major developers.

      • Plumber says:

        @WayUpstate says:

        “[…]I also like to walk home from the grocery and auto mechanic and I can though I live in a village of 3000 nestled in a rural township of 7000 so not really what you had in mind[…]

        No, not what I had in mind but that sounds really cool, and I very much appreciate your report on what’s it like far away, thanks!

    • zardoz says:

      My guess is that suburbs are going to be the big winners in the post-COVID world. More people are going to be working from home, even after the danger is gone. More people are going to continue to order from Amazon or some other online retailer rather than going to a physical store. Urban crime is a growing problem and, in my opinion, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

      If you want a 1900s-style medium-density neighborhood, maybe your best bet is to create it in minecraft.

      • Plumber says:

        @zardoz says:

        “[…]If you want a 1900s-style medium-density neighborhood, maybe your best bet is to create it in minecraft.”

        I already live in a “streetcar suburb” in a two bedroom, one bathroom house built in 1927 a baseball throw from Berkeley, California already, and before that I lived for 17 years in an 18 unit apartment building in Oakland (also a baseball throw from Berkeley) that was built in the ’20’s (and had wonderful steam heat but became very miserable when the landlord started renting out more to college students), my beef is that we didn’t get to live in a neighborhood snd house like ours until me and my wife were both closer to 50 than to 40 because such houses are scarce and extremely expensive (but there really isn’t anyway near my jobs that isn’t, but thanks for the tip our son used to play Mjnecraft so I imagine that I could ask him for pointers.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Question: was that the way the quote naturally appeared when you used the blockquote tag, or did you do something special to make it look like that?

      • Plumber says:

        @Scott Alexander,
        I initially discovered the trick by accident, but it was on purpose this time (I like to use italized blockquote only when quoting other SSC comments).

        Using “><" instead of "][" go [blockquote][i]whatever you’re quoting [/i][/blockquote] and you get:

        whatever you’re quoting

    • eric23 says:

      There’s actually lots of medium-height development right now in fast-growing parts of the US, for example Houston. And urbanists and YIMBYs are well aware of the popular preference for medium height. The problem is, when new residential construction is only allowed in a handful of locations (like in the Bay Area), those locations have to build skyscrapers in order to come close to satisfying residential demand.

      The solution, of course, is to force upzoning everywhere, so the demand can be spread out. This was the premise of SB-50, a California legislative proposal which died in committee shortly before covid19 arrived. It relied on the fact that nowadays we can build up to 5-6 stories in wood, which is much cheaper than concrete. So SB-50 would have upzoned anywhere near a rapid transit stop to 5-6 stories. This would have led to a large amount of mid-height construction which would automatically have the transit infrastructure nearby to support it. Unfortunately it was not passed this time, but hopefully something similar can pass in the near future.

    • keaswaran says:

      This is a known issue in online urbanist communities. Google the phrase “missing middle”. They note that in the past several decades, it’s not just that single family construction has taken a larger share than it did in previous decades, but also that out of the multifamily construction that has gone on, a much larger fraction of it is in buildings with 10 or more units. All those row houses, and 2-9 unit buildings that make up some extremely popular neighborhoods, are pressured from both sides.

      There are some places, like San Francisco and New York, where some of those older middle density neighborhoods should naturally by now be ramping up towards higher density, as the surrounding single-family neighborhoods grow this middle density. But in many American cities (like Houston, as noted by someone else), just growing this missing middle would hugely increase density.

      (Also, I think some criticism of larger buildings is misplaced – it took me a moment to realize that you had intended all larger buildings to be in category 4. The description you gave of category 4 sounds like a “tower in the park” development, with a big building on a wide open patch of land. But the pleasant ones would basically look a lot more like a three story mixed-use apartment building, with a taller tower set back a bit above it. Basically what they call “Vancouverism”, where from the street level it looks like a medium-density neighborhood, but it has the street life of a denser neighborhood.)

  23. moshez says:

    Has anyone already submitted a review for the book review contest? I sent one a few weeks ago, and another one just now, and have gotten no confirmation. I’m hoping “no news means good news”, but if anyone knows more, feel free to share.

  24. Lillian says:

    Some time ago I posted about a persistent cough that I was having and asked for some advice for dealing with it. While rather obvious, “Buy cheap low effort food like ramen so you’re no longer starving yourself,” was in fact the kind of thing I needed to hear. I did actually go out and bunch of nice $1 ramen like I said I would, though at a lag time of about a week due to motivation problems, which in turn helped me feed myself properly for a while. The cough went away shortly thereafter, and has not returned despite my continually erratic sleeping and eating habits. I also bought and started taking Vitamin D pills. I don’t know if that helped or not, but I suspect I’m Vitamin D deficient because I shun the sun, so it probably helped.

    I just wanted to say thanks again to everyone who pitched in.

    • Murphy says:

      Re: the vitamin D thing, I have a partner who’s tends to have problems with it due to other medication.

      Every now and then she gets bloods done and vit-D tends to show up as low.

      She’d get prescribed some high-dose vitamin D and would get more motivated and then sort of slowly fall back to normal once they ran out.

      She started taking modest doses regularly and it seems to have a non-trivial effect on her mood, enough that if she runs out I can typically guess from how listless she gets.

      A lot of vitamin claims tend to be crap but I’m leaning towards believing the stuff about vitamin-D being linked to low-level depression

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        … And according to blood serum tests, basically the entire african-american population of the US is permanently vitamin d deficient.

        You know, this really could explain.. way to much.

        • Murphy says:

          I was wondering whether foods in the US were fortified with vitamin D and apparently it’s almost entirely milk.

          But apparently 75 percent of African Americans are at least somewhat lactose intolerant.

          And 76% of african americans in the USA are vitamin-D deficient. Way higher than any other group.

          That probably can’t be great.

          Apparently there is a decent evidence base for vitamin-D having an effect on depression:

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6515787/

          Vitamin D supplementation favorably impacted depression ratings in major depression with a moderate effect size. These findings must be considered tentative owing to the limited number of trials available and inherent methodological bias noted in few of them.

          I kinda wonder how many theories about the acheivement gap would get blown to pieces if the government started fortifying a few more non-milk foods with vitamin D and suddenly millions of people got a little bit more energy and started feeling a little bit better overnight.

          Also, for irony sake and only because this is a CW-allowed thread, when I did a search on this, one of the top hits was an article “Are the US Dietary Guidelines on Milk Racist?”, not.. as I expected, arguing anything about vitamin D and the failure to fortify other foods…. but rather complaining that trying to get african americans to drink more milk or milk products with the lactose removed was racist because they didn’t suffer as many calcium-related bone problems as we would expect. Which seems like some kind of parody.

          • Aapje says:

            I explained the last time that this was brought up (by you?) that vitamin D aids in absorbing calcium, so adding it to milk is perfectly logical.

            It’s mandatory to do so in Sweden since 1983, which should put paid to the idea that it is a racist thing. Note that it’s not mandated in the US, but simply something that milk companies decided to do on their own. That also makes it rather silly to think that there is a conspiracy, where those companies did so because black people drink their products less often.

            In The Netherlands, vitamin D it’s added to margarine, but also, by private companies on their own initiative.

            Nothing is stopping other companies from adding it to their products, but honestly, if a clear minority of the population is at risk, it makes more sense for them to supplement themselves.

          • Murphy says:

            I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this on here before.

            I also don’t think it’s racist, I brought up the article as being ridiculous.

            I do think it’s likely non-optimal. We could try relying on people to suplment themselves but that rarely works well, people just don’t hear about these things and they’re swamped by a billion companies trying to convince them that [random useless thing] is a superfood that will fix everything if only they buy it!!!!!

            In practice in a lot of places governments don’t do everything through legislation and often do things like approaching companies about the practicality of doing things that are probably a good idea.

            The push to Iodise salt seems to have been a huge success and didn’t rely on the individual wyoming farmers following the research literature.

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            The problem is that some of these groups have different diets. For example, Muslim women also tend to especially be at risk, but many eat a diet from their country of origin, often buying unprocessed ingredients at a small store run by people of the same ethnicity, that they spend a lot of time preparing themselves.

            These shopkeepers are not really easier to reach than the final consumers and what products are you going to enrich? If there is no Western food company in between and customers aren’t willing to pay for it, who is going to cater to it?

            This seems very much a technocratic & paternalistic ‘something must be done to help people that don’t know they need help,’ but at a certain point you need grassroots support to make things happen.

        • I was told this by a retired Berkeley professor who is described by Wikipedia as one of the few hundred most cited scientists in the world. My impression was that he was reluctant to make a public point of it for fear of being attacked as racist.

      • Aapje says:

        @Murphy

        She’d get prescribed some high-dose vitamin D

        Why not just buy it during your regular shopping trips? It’s available over the counter and quite cheap.

        • Murphy says:

          That’s what we started doing. Once it was clear that she kept slipping into deficiency.

  25. silver_swift says:

    Can someone explain the process of using a custom avatar here? The profile page says to use Gravatar, but I can’t seem to login on the page the link sends me to (and, in fact, my username here seems to be invalid there).

    Do I need to make a separate wordpress account to change my avatar?

    • TimG says:

      I went here: https://slatestarcodex.com/wp-admin/profile.php

      Clicked “You can change your profile picture on Gravitar.”

      Then it made me log into Gravitar with my WordPress account (same I use here.) It made me confirm that Gravitar should be able to link to my WordPress account. Then I could change the picture.

      It was a bit clunky, but seemed to work more-or-less as expected.

      [Edit]: After I saved this message, it seemed to still show my old avatar. I opened the page in incognito mode and saw the new one. When I hard-reload this page, my avatar is now changed. So it seems Gravitar does some caching.

      • matkoniecz says:

        WARNING: gravatar will use this avatar in any place where you used associated email. If you used the same email on site where you expected to remain private (and foolishly trusted the site to not leak you email) you may be deanonymized.

        Note that it applies to any sites that on future will get your email or will switch to using gravatar.

        • toastengineer says:

          If the site uses Gravatar, you’re already deanonymized (depseudonymized, really), since the funky picture that Gravatar uses by default encodes the md5 hash of your EMail address, and the md5 hash is in practice easily reversible.

          • matkoniecz says:

            I was unaware about that, then it falls under “anything online is publicly accessible or will leak in future or already leaked”.

            Thanks for the info!

      • silver_swift says:

        Ah, thanks. I couldn’t make a wordpress account with this username (because it doesn’t allow underscores for some reason), but apparently just having an account linked to the same e-mail address does the trick.

        • Randy M says:

          Yep. I never intentionally set this avatar for this site, but using an address I’d used elsewhere hooked it up.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I never set my avatar, either. I already had one set up with gravatar.

            I believe there was actually a point a few years ago where Scott started requiring wordpress login to comment. I must have done it then.

  26. eliokim says:

    I am looking for good historical examples to illustrate “asymmetric weapons” from https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/24/guided-by-the-beauty-of-our-weapons/

    Something like this: two people argued with each other (in an asymmetric way) for a long time, it wasn’t easy, but eventually something great came out of it. One example i have in mind is Levi Civita criticizing Einstein’s early general theory of relativity. Einstein passionately argued with him in a lengthy correspondence, but eventually had to accept that his derivation was wrong and that led him and Hilbert to the correct theory. Although relativity was controversial at the time, it would be nice to see an example from a less rigorous field or even not from science at all…

    • matkoniecz says:

      Far more controversial but one of priests was describing protestantism as having overall positive effect on a Catholic Church (exact description went along “heresy, but sadly it was apparently needed to stop even worse corruption”).

      Democratic system is suposed to run on that, with multiple sides at times fighting with each other viciously but overall effect better than one of sides dominating.

      • eliokim says:

        thank you! that’s a good example, about Catholic Church, although there were a lot of symmetric weapons in that fight! do you happen to have a link to the priest’s writing?

        I’m trying to formulate a motto that would capture the idea about asymmetric weapons so that i can try to stick to it myself and may be preach to others. something like: “when you try to advance an idea that many people are divided over, do it in such a way that will bring goodness even if your are wrong”.

        It would be nice to have examples that illustrate this and are easily relatable to people.

        • matkoniecz says:

          No, it was meeting in person in some family gathering. And as far as I know this priest never published anything.

          But AFAIK it is not some unusual opinion.

        • matkoniecz says:

          about Catholic Church, although there were a lot of symmetric weapons in that fight!

          Given how people like to argue among different topics, significant influence of CC and long well documented history will probably provide entire piles of such examples, together with cases where it failed.

          I guess that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Christian_church_councils would be one of good starting points.

    • matkoniecz says:

      One more case that is fairly close to my interests: urban planning. Usually you have bunch of different single-purpose groups (rabid cyclists like me, people who want parking everywhere, fans of building statues…)

      If some goal is underrepresented in tends to result in appearance of group promoting it and a correction – it is far from perfect, over-corrections are common, some problems remain unfixed for long time but overall it sort of works.

    • When Ronald Coase came to Chicago to give a talk on what became his most important article, he had dinner at the house of Aaron Director, a law school professor. Attending were fourteen economists, counting Coase, including three future Nobel prize winners.

      When the dinner started thirteen of them accepted the conventional Pigouvian account of externalities. When it ended none of them did.

      • eliokim says:

        Thank you. I wonder if the details of how that went were recorded anywhere…
        (was the dinner before the talk or after the talk?)

    • DeWitt says:

      This sort of thing, kinda, is how Abrahamic faiths managed to supplant their pagan forebears in most of the world.

      Pagan faiths promise practical benefits right here on earth: worship properly and the sun will remain in the sky, your crops will ripen beautifully, you will not die in childbirth, the river will not flood and drown you all. This is a fairly stable system for as long as everyone else is also pagan, and at any time things go wrong you explain it because of error in sacrifice or ritual.

      Abrahamic faiths, on the other hand, promise benefits beyond this life on earth. You can tell people that God works in mysterious ways, but everyone eventually gets their due. Whatever happens on earth then doesn’t quite disprove your faith the way it does for a pagan.

      The result is one where pagans don’t have a good answer for the world where their Christian and Muslim counterparts do: if you are beaten soundly in war or get your temples torn down or your sacred trees burnt to ashes or anything else bad happens, it strikes at the very core of your faith. The reverse is not true, as you can always promise your followers that God or Allah will reward you with entrance to heaven once all this hardship is done with.

      Asymmetry.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Judaism doesn’t have much emphasis on the afterlife. On the other hand, it didn’t win really big.

        • DeWitt says:

          I didn’t really have a good term to talk about Christians and Muslims without also including Jews, but yeah, you’re right.

  27. Loriot says:

    Just came across this article and found it pretty eye opening. I think it might be especially interesting to the “CV only kills people over 80 so what’s the big deal?” crowd among the frequent commenters here.

    https://www.sfgate.com/science/article/What-they-don-t-tell-you-about-surviving-15347792.php

    “I’m a nurse on a COVID floor, I caught it. I am a relatively healthy 24-year-old and could barely walk up a half flight of stairs. My blood pressure skyrocketed, chest pain was debilitating. I’m 8 weeks out and still feeling the chest pain and shortness of breath. This is no joke.”

    “I had COVID for over 60 days. I’m 33 years old, was super healthy, pescatarian, 125 pounds, and ran and did yoga every day. I couldn’t walk for two weeks besides a couple steps. It was the worst illness of my life.”

    “My coworker — an otherwise totally healthy 30-year-old — is still having issues breathing, two full months later. We’ve got patients coming back to the ER after they’re “recovered” because they can’t breathe or they get a blood clot. It’s so insane.”

    “I’m a healthy, active 23 year-old and I still have significant lung damage two months after I’ve “recovered.””

    • GoneAnon says:

      As one of the resident skeptics, my attitude on this is as follows:

      While it does seem to be a real risk (such that I’m not actively pursuing a “why don’t I just get COVID now and get immunity!” strategy myself) and it does seem to be really happening to some people and it is worth keeping an eye on… I also feel like nearly everything I’ve seen on it has been anecdotal examples rather than hard data.

      Note that the linked article provides no estimate… not even a wild guess… as to what percentage of recoveries develop these severe, long-term, life-altering complications. Although it does concede at the very beginning that “Most people who catch the new coronavirus don’t experience severe symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all. COVID-19 saves its worst for relatively few.” So what is “most people” or “relatively few?” It seems like we have no idea.

      And what I find interesting is that this sort of tone and approach to reporting reminds me a lot of what we saw in the early days of COVID spread in the US, when the trend was to publish article after article about scattered anecdotes of young/healthy people dying with the clear implication being “COVID can kill the young and healthy too!” while carefully avoiding any actual numbers that might clarify the situation to say “COVID can kill the young and healthy… but it’s ridiculously rare and they’re still more likely to die in a car accident.” Then after a couple months, once the data came in and it became pretty much indisputable that the overwhelming majority of risk was to the old/sick and that the young/healthy while not totally immune were statistically pretty safe, these anecdotes seem to have fallen off.

      Only to be replaced with this. “COVID can kill the young” isn’t pushed anymore, because too many people know the numbers necessary to push back on the premise. But “COVID can cause horrible complications to the young” is now pushed, because nobody has sufficient data to disprove it.

      Does that necessarily mean the numbers will be similar? No. I don’t know. I wish we had more data. But until I start seeing anecdotes replaced with data, I’m going to treat this as ideological propaganda and not as science. Recent experience implies this is a pretty decent bet.

      • Chalid says:

        I don’t see why you’d make it ideological. It’s just another flavor of “if it bleeds it leads.” Scary news gets clicks and possible long-term effects of covid are (rightly!) pretty scary.

        Also we genuinely don’t have the data on this stuff, it’s not the media’s fault for failing to report numbers that don’t exist. (Ditto deaths a couple months ago, when people were publishing IFR estimates that varied over three orders of magnitude.)

        It wouldn’t be shocking if the rate of severe side effects was 20x that of fatalities and I don’t think we would necessarily know about it if it were. One thing that this epidemic has underlined is that our civilization really sucks at aggregating novel information.

        • John Schilling says:

          Also we genuinely don’t have the data on this stuff, it’s not the media’s fault for failing to report numbers that don’t exist.

          Unless you think that part of the media’s job is to get the data before reporting the story. And this isn’t the sort of data that the media needs handed to them on a silver platter. If they don’t have at least an ROM number for this, it’s because they aren’t even trying (and same goes for the CDC).

          • Chalid says:

            I think it’s reasonable to expect media to ask a range of experts and people with access to the data. And if they do that, and they can’t get anyone to go on the record with an estimate, I prefer the reporter to write “the risk is still unknown” to them doing some kind of ignorant non-expert Fermi estimate.

        • GoneAnon says:

          (Ditto deaths a couple months ago, when people were publishing IFR estimates that varied over three orders of magnitude.)

          So what happened once the data actually came in? What did most mainstream outlets do? Issue a bunch of retractions and corrections and clarifications? Make a strong effort to widely publicize the data and make sure everyone was aware of it?

          No. As I said, they pivoted right to this. They went from “here’s a bunch of anecdotal cases of deaths, be afraid!” to “here’s a bunch of anecdotal cases of long-term damage, be afraid!” Knowing why they made that pivot requires you to independently look for non-mainstream sources and data points.

          As to whether this is ideological in nature or just standard fear-porn, well, I suspect the former but don’t want to get into a long thing about it because I think that would increase the CW-ness of the whole discussion by an order of magnitude…

          • Chalid says:

            Well, they kind of did. Everyone who paid attention knows that there were estimates in February of IFR ranging from 4% to like 0.03% and that they’ve converged on about 0.5-1% or so. Everyone who’s paid any attention now knows that the chance of death is low if you’re young.

            The correction in the end comes in the form of “scientists now generally agree on X and Y, says esteemed person Z.”

            Maybe you think they should say “we shouldn’t have published that article on those Stanford guys who thought the IFR was 1/50 what I turned out to be.” But I don’t agree with that. I don’t think you can expect that the media’s job should be to curate a bunch of different articles being published on a fast-moving scientific topic and figure out which ones are likely to be right. Even trained scientists can’t do that! SSC itself had a bunch of debates on these studies!

          • LesHapablap says:

            @Chalid,

            The CDC’s latest best estimate for IFR is less than .3%, which is in line with the centre for evidence based medicine’s estimates for the last few months. You are obviously well informed and even you didn’t know that, claiming the consensus is now .5 to 1%! My sister who is technically minded and who generally pays attention thought that IFR was 5% in her state.

            That both you and my sister could be so far off means that the media is obviously not doing their job.

        • I don’t see why you’d make it ideological.

          It’s not obvious why it would make a close fit with left/right ideology. But it does seem to me that there is something ideological about wanting to believe that things are horrible, whether it’s the belief that global warming will destroy civilization or that SJW’s will.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        “Watch out non-injecting heterosexuals, AIDS is just as dangerous to you” had a long run in the ’80s.

      • keaswaran says:

        As far as I can tell, I have had three Facebook friends that have had covid (four if you count one husband-wife pair as two separate cases). The couple are in their mid-to-late 30’s, and I met the wife when she was 9 months pregnant with twins and chairing a session at a conference, so she’s generally extremely fit – but the two of them spent a week in the “can’t walk across the room because lungs won’t work” phase. (Apparently those twins, now six were running the house during that week.) Another is early 30’s, used to be my boyfriend’s gym partner, so again, quite fit – but he had 30-40 days in this phase. The fourth is, I’m guessing in her 40’s or 50’s, I don’t know anything about her fitness, and didn’t mention a phase as serious as this.

        Obviously not a large sample size, but I believe this is the complete set of detected covid cases in my friends group.

        As far as I know, none of them have any lasting complications, but everything they state is compatible with the journalistic description of “mild” cases that apparently makes up 80% of symptomatic cases.

        • albatross11 says:

          I know two people in their late 40s/early 50s who apparently had C19. Both got extremely sick for a couple weeks. One seems to have recovered pretty well; the other is still having problems (occasionally spiking a fever or having a huge wave of being tired, ongoing breathing difficulties, etc.) a couple months after initially getting sick.

    • John Schilling says:

      I think it might be especially interesting to the “CV only kills people over 80 so what’s the big deal?” crowd among the frequent commenters here.

      I don’t think there’s any set of commenters here that could reasonably be described as a “crowd”, whose view of COVID-19 can reasonably be described as “CV only kills people over 80”. Or that it is “no big deal”. There are quite a few people here who think that responses to COVID-19 need to be subject to cost-benefit analysis rather than treated as a moral absolute. In that context, the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly is relevant in several respects. It not only changes the cost:benefit math, but also opens the possibility of new strategies like isolating the elderly while seeking rapid herd immunity across the rest of the population. At the individual level, it strongly influences the decision of what level of personal precautions a single thirty-something should take.

      None of which requires that COVID-19 cause literally zero death or disability among the young. So a handful of anecdotes cherry-picked from a population of a third of a billion with several million COVID-19 cases is of approximately zero relevance.

      And I’d prefer that if we are going to discuss the rational implications of the age structure of COVID-19 mortality or severity, we do so in a thread that doesn’t start with an appeal to anecdote.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Anecdotes are bad when you have data. For example, the common cold is pretty harmless but also pretty common. You can easily find many many examples of people having pretty much any symptoms you can think of – while testing positive for common cold. Anything from shortness of breath to car accidents.

      The only way to disprove causality is to check the base rate and say that yes, people do get colds, they do die of car accidents, but there’s no significant increase in accident rates while having a cold (or maybe it is, in which case … interesting.

      • Matthew A says:

        Anecdotes are bad when you have data

        There’s no good data anywhere (at least not publicly available) on the long-term effects of surviving COVID. Part of this is because it’s unknowable, part of this is because it’s extremely hard to study without a deliberate program. We’re 3 months into this thing being a huge international crisis. Assessing long-term effects across people with different demographic info, different severity of disease, different initial treatments, etc. is hard even if we weren’t spending tons of resources trying to answer hundreds of other (equally if not more pressing) COVID-related questions.

        We don’t have the data

    • SamChevre says:

      What I would really like is to have some idea if this kind of after-effects is more common with COVID than with pneumonia for other causes. My anecdata is that recovery from pneumonia takes a LONG time in many cases.

      But a lot of people treat it as if the alternatives are “die, or be fine.”

      (It’s one reason I’m not a regular smoker: if the risk was just* dying of lung cancer or heart attacks, I would probably consider it worth the risk. But COPD is just years and years of misery.)

      *Note that my grandmother died of lung cancer, my grandfather of a heart attack, and they were both life-long smokers.

      • My anecdata is that recovery from pneumonia takes a LONG time in many cases.

        And the recovery is worse, subjectively speaking, than the pneumonia, at least in my experience. The healing lungs throw off a lot of liquid, which you have to cough up.

        Which is how I ended up running my Pennsic bardic circle that year in a whisper.

      • keaswaran says:

        I think recovery is pretty long from covid. For the first few months, I was ignoring the numbers of recoveries that were listed along with detected cases and deaths, because I figured they just weren’t updating the numbers. But now that I’ve been following longer, it seems that at most geographic levels, the number of recoveries seems to track the total number of cases 30 days earlier – and it seems quite plausible from the people that I’ve known that had it, that 30 days is about how long recovery would take. (This shouldn’t be surprising if you think that it takes 5 days to develop symptoms, and sometimes up to 14.)

    • matkoniecz says:

      “CV only kills people over 80 so what’s the big deal?” crowd among the frequent commenters here

      Can you link to at least one comment that would seriously make this claim at SSC? I do not remember anyone doing this and I suspect that you have mistaken SSC with Reddit, 4chan or something else.

      Can you link to at least 5 different posters claiming that? It can count as a tiny crowd.

      • souleater says:

        I don’t think they meant “only” literally here…

        I think they’re talking about my views here. Without looking it up, I would guess that here in the USA
        That at least 85% of the Covid deaths hit seniors 65 and older. (70% confidence)
        That 85% of the Covid deaths hit people with preexisting conditions (90% confidence)

        So I figure the I, a healthy, adult male in his late 20s with no commodities, who lives alone, doesn’t have anything to really worry about. I think I’m more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

        • matkoniecz says:

          Given that there are people who actually meant “literally” then it would be nice to be precise.

        • keaswaran says:

          >I, a healthy, adult male in his late 20s with no com[orbi]dities, who lives alone, doesn’t have anything to really worry about. I think I’m more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

          I think you’re definitely more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

          But I think you’re also far more likely to spend two weeks gasping for breath due to covid than to have similarly serious injuries due to all other intentional or unintentional injuries combined.

        • matkoniecz says:

          I think I’m more likely to die in a car accident this year than covid.

          Given that I put significant effort into not getting killed by cars – it is a quite high bar.

          There is plenty of space between “the largest danger to my life and health” and “should be ignored”.

    • Humphrey_Appleby says:

      The lack of hard data on this is frustrating, but we can try to establish some bounds. For example, there were 2 million confirmed cases in the USA 2 weeks ago. Assuming that ten percent of actual cases have been detected (in line with most antibody studies) this would suggest that there were 20 million actual cases. Presumably if there had been 1 million cases with long term health damage, the news coverage would look very different, so 5% seems like a safe albeit rough upper bound on COVID morbidity, averaged across all ages. Can we get a tighter bound?

      Related: how strongly should age-adjusted morbidity risk correlate with age-adjusted mortality risk? At one extreme it could be that the ratio morbidity/mortality is constant across age groups such that 20 years olds also have very low mortality risk. At the other extreme it could be that the same fraction of cases are `severe’ regardless of age, and the only difference is what fraction of `severe’ cases lead to death or `merely’ long term health damage. Has anyone encountered data that would indicate where in this range COVID falls?

      • Chalid says:

        Presumably if there had been 1 million cases with long term health damage, the news coverage would look very different

        I don’t know, wouldn’t it just look like a pile of anecdotes just like it currently does?

        • Humphrey_Appleby says:

          I am assuming that people who have a bad enough case to have long lasting health damage are disproportionately likely to get tested and included in the confirmed case count. While we may be undercounting total cases by a factor of 10, I am assuming that we’re catching close to all the cases that are this bad. If 50% of the confirmed COVID cases had led to long term health damage (as in, lingering effects 2+months after infection) I think we would know.

          • Chalid says:

            I agree with you that people with long-lasting health damage are more likely to have been tested.

            I disagree that their long-term health damage would necessarily be known to the medical system. AFAICT once people are discharged and virus-free the medical system more-or-less stops keeping tabs on them.

        • DeWitt says:

          Those are fair assumptions, but I don’t think that’s right.

          I’m a healthy twentysomething with no prior lung conditions who doesn’t smoke, and so on, and so on. Even so, my grabdmother got diagnosed with corona, my mother did, and I shortly developed symptoms of my own – I had the worst cough of my entire life for about half a week and some very real shortness of breath…

          … But, because I wasn’t literally bedridden and dying, my country didn’t care to test me.

          N = 1, obviously, but a valid counterpoint to why you may not aant to assume that merely unpleasant as opposed to critical cases are also diagnosed well.

          • JayT says:

            When were you sick though? If it was in March, sure they didn’t want to waste tests because there was a shortage. Now though (at least in the US), my understanding is that anyone can have a test that wants one. I know people that have gotten tests even though they have no symptoms and haven’t been around anyone with symptoms, but it was required for travel, so they made an appointment to get a test, and got it.

      • Matthew A says:

        Assuming that ten percent of actual cases have been detected (in line with most antibody studies)

        What studies are you talking about? As of the end of May, hardest-hit places in the US were around 20%, but everything not NYC, Louisiana or Michigan was at like 1 or 2%.

        Also, it’s not obvious if you have long-term health damage until, you know, some time passes. Maybe things will clear up. Maybe they won’t. You don’t really know after a month or two.

        • Humphrey_Appleby says:

          I meant there have been ten times as many actual cases as have been detected, not that 10% of the population has been infected. I believe this is in line with most of the antibody studies (and is also the difference between CFR and IFR). It might be a factor of 7 or 12 instead of 10, but I’m just aiming for an order of magnitude estimate here.

          You are right that not all that much time has gone by so we don’t know how much of the damage is permanent, but if e.g. 50% (or even 25%) of COVID patients had severe health issues ~2 months after recovery I think we would know

      • keaswaran says:

        I think all reports have said that a substantial proportion of individuals have “mild” cases, that don’t require hospitalization, but involve one or more of the symptoms, like “shortness of breath”. None of the cases described in the above comment includes anything that would have categorized it as “serious”. They’re just extremely unpleasant for several weeks.

        • Humphrey_Appleby says:

          Yes that’s fair. I’ve also seen news coverage discussing long term / potentially permanent health issues, and I was conflating that with the article linked in the original post.

    • Marlowe says:

      From today’s New York Times: “People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Most Seem Just Fine.” (An opinion piece.) Apparently it’s fine to post this headline, but not “People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Some are miserable and dying!” though that’s equally true. The NYT will also never write “Lots of People Get Covid-19. Most End Up Just Fine” — also a true statement. That’s the problem with anecdotes rather than numbers — they can be cherry picked for whatever point one wants to make.

  28. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I just read Thirteenth Child by Patrieica Wrede, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

    People never came to the western hemisphere from Asia, and the continent has a lot more dangerous animals, some of them magical. Magical ability is fairly rare, and magicians are almost essential for settlements beyond the Great Barrier.

    Anyway, it’s believed that seventh children, seventh children of seventh children, and fourteenth children especially have high magical power, and thirteenth children are unlucky and wicked.

    The viewpoint character is a thirteenth child, a very decent person who takes some damage from a lot of people expecting the worst of her.

    Anyway, I count this as rationalist fiction in the sense that she does well by being observant and thoughtful.

    What’s more, I’ve been wanting sf that doesn’t have a romance and a mystery in it. It turns out that family, polities, magic, and strange creatures is enough to carry a story.

    This is a first in a trilogy, and it’s a bit of a slow build– the more interesting animals are mostly mentioned rather than seen, and the major threat is an insect plague. That’s quite bad enough, but I look forward to dragons in the later books.

    I bought my copy out of solidarity because Wrede was being attacked during racefail– the issue was writing Native Americans out of history. I’m more sympathetic to that being an issue than I was back in 2009, but I still think it’s a good book.

    • matkoniecz says:

      This is a first in a trilogy

      Is series complete or WIP?

    • herbert herberson says:

      Ever read the Alvin Maker books? sounds kind of superficially very similar, although probably also very different when the rubber actually meets the road

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s been a while since I’ve read the Alvin Maker books.

        Eff (the viewpoint character in Thirteenth Child) has good parents, but some horrible other relatives. I thought Card had made psychological progress when one of his books (sorry, I don’t remember which one) had a father who felt bad about wanting to kill his son.

        One of the things I like about Thirteenth Child is that it’s (among many other things) an extended look at good and bad authority. It includes a moderate number of high-dominace fools getting swatted for it.

        It also has examples of people learning and changing in a way that seems very realistic, though perhaps more common that what happens in real life.

        • Randy M says:

          I thought Card had made psychological progress when one of his books had a father who felt bad about wanting to kill his son.

          Can you expand on this? Do you mean that Card tends to show horrible parents for some psychological reason? Or that his writing in some other way shows him incapable of empathy?

          (Also, I think the Alvin Maker series is unfinished with little prospect for being finished, so while entertaining, I’m not sure I’d recommend it.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I mean that a lot of Card’s fiction is about older men (frequently fathers) mistreating young men and boys.

            I have no idea how Card treats people in the real world, but this is such a common theme in his fiction that I think it reflects something in the back of his mind.

            As I recall, it isn’t horrible parents, it’s specifically horrible fathers.

            If you want horrible parents both male and female, try Dianna Wynne Jones. (Not the other thing she writes about, but I’d say she’s got a sharp dividing line between nurturing and abusive environments.)

          • Aftagley says:

            A forget where I read this interview, but Card’s stated perspective is that he thinks that children are one of the few remaining oppressed people; that the state has basically legalized discrimination against a whole swatch of the populace. Most people, however,don’t notice this “injustice” since everyone eventually ages out of the discrimination.

            I might be misquoting, but I think he referred to the whole system as a “continuously refreshing underclass.” In his writing parents are normally the people subjecting the repression on their kids, but you also see it in his writing in how teachers and even older children treat the young.

          • Randy M says:

            I think it shows he sees child abuse as quite impactful, but I don’t think it shows he thinks it is highly prevalent. Here’s a list from memory, which may be faulty but:
            Ender’s Game: Ender’s parents are a bit neglectful (later retconned?) but not abusive.
            Speaker for the Dead: Novinha’s husband is abusive, and this is a major plot point. As he dies before the start of the novel, there’s no redemption here. But in contrast, Novinha’s parents, her adoptive father figure, and Ender who later sort of marries her are all decent to good parents.
            Alvin Maker: I really don’t remember at all, so maybe?
            Homecoming Saga: The father is well respected and fairly decent.
            A Planet Called Treason: The father, a king, is fairly harsh with his son but not abusive and later on dies somewhat pitifully in exile. I don’t think there’s a lot of actual mistreatment beyond it being a harsh world, though.
            Hart’s Hope: No particular paternal mistreatment of the main character, though his father does commit a particularly heinous act in conquest.
            Wyrms: A fairly good relationship between the king and his daughter, the main character.
            Enchantment: The main character is on very good terms with his father into his adult years, as is the female lead.

            But I haven’t read the more contemporary works like Lost boys or Magic street [edit: or short stories]. From what I have read, I’d only give one or two out of about ten stories that this applies to.

            edit:

            but you also see it in his writing in how teachers and even older children treat the young.

            Ah, yeah, that expands it greatly. One example is his amusing tirades on the subject of school assigned homework.

            Ironically, it sounds like he would probably agree with Molyneux somewhat on this topic, though not necessarily any others.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think you have to include some shorter works like “Mikal’s Songbird”– it’s not just about fathers, it’s about male authority figures.

            I agree with Card about prejudice against children and teenagers.

          • Randy M says:

            True, I forgot to add I haven’t read many of the short stories. Just fyi, when you said he “made psychological progress” I inferred a reference to some sort of obsession which I hadn’t observed.
            In contrast, that he has strongly held, possibly idiosyncratic beliefs about childhood that show in his work sometimes is certainly easy to argue.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            My impression– it’s been a while since I’ve read much Card– is that he did have an obsession.

            I could be wrong, or have too few data points, or see abuse where you see harshness. Also, this includes authority figures, not just male relatives.

          • Gerry Quinn says:

            Aftagley: “Most people, however,don’t notice this “injustice” since everyone eventually ages out of the discrimination.”

            Hmm, I throw the idea out to any SF writers here (and I know there are some) – what if people age out of the damned colour?

          • Aftagley says:

            Ender’s Game: Ender’s parents are a bit neglectful (later retconned?) but not abusive.

            Well, the parents straight-up resent having Ender. He’s a third and they have trouble accepting their complicity in that system.

            None of that matters, because Colonel Graff and Mazer Rackam are the real parental figures in this story, and they are actively abusive towards Ender and the other kids.

          • Randy M says:

            what if people age out of the damned colour?

            Not sure what this means. Are you suggesting to consider what society would be like if skin tone was correlated with age rather than ancestry? I assume then we’d treat it like height, and other physical features that did correlate with ancestry would be more salient.

            @Aftagley

            Colonel Graff and Mazer Rackam are the real parental figures in this story, and they are actively abusive towards Ender and the other kids.

            Yes, good point. Although… the book seems somewhat agnostic about whether such abuse was useful.

            Well, the parents straight-up resent having Ender.

            IIRC, both parents had religious motivation for having lots of kids, and resented only being able to do so due to special government dispensation. But they did worry that these secret allegiances would be uncovered due to Ender.

          • Matthew A says:

            Ender’s parents are completely oblivious to the literal torture his older brother puts him through. Ender also feels unwanted.

            Come to think of it, a lot of Ender’s story is about redeeming himself by being becoming a good father. (I think also to the weird mind children? I only read that one once, and it was weird.)

            Bean had a series of awful father/parental figures, including his literal father as well as the pseudo-father he found on the streets of Rotterdam murdering Bean’s pseudo-mother and Bean feeling responsible. Oh, and he’s also redeemed eventually by becoming a father.

            Haven’t read Card’s other stuff, but if you want to make a case that he write a lot about “older men (frequently fathers) mistreating young men and boys”, there’s a ton to work with.

          • Randy M says:

            Haven’t read Card’s other stuff, but if you want to make a case that he write a lot about “older men (frequently fathers) mistreating young men and boys”, there’s a ton to work with.

            Sure, but that’s different from “doesn’t write about much else” or otherwise has an obsession with it.

            He writes about family dynamics a lot, and perhaps the old saw about bad families being more interesting applies. They never jumped out at me as particularly abusive, especially given a bias toward conflict in fiction, with the exception mentioned above in Speaker for the Dead (I don’t remember much about the Bean novels; they never seemed as interesting, no offense to the contingent of posters here by the name).

            Expanding the scope to father figures, like gang leaders and older brothers adds more examples but then seems like less of an obsession and starts to just look like “protagonist faces opposition”.

    • Randy M says:

      On the subject of books, I’m reading the Hitchhikers Guide series to my older two daughters. Though the dry but absurd humor sometimes goes over their heads without explanation, they’ve been liking it a lot.

      But the fourth book sure does a tonal shift, with the first half or so being about Arthur’s search for romance upon returning to Earth. There’s a lot fewer zany asides, so far one or two interesting pages with Ford and a bit about a Rain god that’s a crack up, but aside from that the subject matter is very different. From what I recall, it was published by a different publisher and the fifth book was more of a return to form.

      I also recall reading that Adams was terrible with deadlines and somewhat hard to work with, so maybe he had some difficulty coming up with something to top Life, the Universe, and Everything.

      • achenx says:

        IIRC, the fourth one was the first he wrote from scratch as a novel — 1 and 2 were based on the radio series, and 3 was based on a rejected Dr Who script (the Doctor became Slartibartfast I believe). I seem to remember some personal issues in his life surrounding the writing of both books 4 and 5 (which is somewhat darker than the other ones) that affected how they turned out as well.

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        His Dirk Gently stuff just seemed gloomy. But it apparently resonated with enough folks that they made a TV series, so who knows?

        • MilesM says:

          The TV series has virtually nothing to do with the books. Fun, though.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I enjoyed both the books and the TV series. There’s a decent amount of thematic connection, but a ton of differences. Particularly, Dirk’s characterization is very different and his backstory has been almost completely retconned.

            The characterization changes I consider a milder and more defensible change than the backstory, more of an update than a reimagining. Douglas Adams was in the habit of recycling character archetypes between the various worlds he wrote stories in. The two archetypes he reused the most were 1) a beleaguered everyman who got caught up in events, generally with significant similarities to how Adams saw himself (Arthur Dent, Richard Way, and various one-off characters in his Doctor Who stories), and 2) a roguish eccentric who was already up to his neck in the weirdness of the story to serve as a guide and problem-solver for the everyman (Ford Prefect, the Doctor, and Dirk Gently). Book-Dirk’s behavior and mannerisms borrowed quite a bit from Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor during the era when Adams was writer or script-editor for Doctor Who, while TV-Dirk largely replaces those traits with traits that more closely resemble Matt Smith’s then-current portrayal of the Doctor. Similarly, Elijah Wood’s character in the TV series fit the beleaguered everyman archetype from Adams’s works pretty well, but with a lot of the self-insert traits dialed back.

            The backstory was a less obvious change, taking a while to be revealed over the course of the series, but IMO was more fundamental. I won’t go into detail about what they changed it to for the series for the sake of spoilers, but they drastically dialed back Dirk’s background as a con artist who specializes in paranormal-genre scams. It’s never explicitly stated but consistently very strongly implied in the books that Dirk’s “superpower” is that any time he attempts to perpetrate a nontrival con, events conspire to make it so Dirk’s mark receives the full benefit Dirk lead them to believe they’d get, but in such a way that Dirk receives no material benefit (and often considerable collateral damage) in the process. I don’t think this ever comes up in the TV series, and Dirk’s giving a very different paranormal backstory instead.

      • Aftagley says:

        This matches my memory of it as well. That God of Rain bit aside, I found the fourth book to be a pretty major departure from the serious.

        the fifth book was more of a return to form.

        Oofta, I strongly disagree. I like the fifth book even less than the fourth; at that point adams just seems too mired in trying to keep his collection of zany characters and their misadventures in some kind of cohesive narrative that it all just collapses in on itself.

        • Randy M says:

          Oofta, I strongly disagree

          It will be interesting to judge it when I reread.

          For as hallowed a place as it has in Geek culture and my personal recollections, I’d actually suggest a new reader would be fine if they stopped after the second.

        • BBA says:

          I haven’t read the books since I was a kid. I remember the first three being a hilarious romp, the fourth a much slower departure like you said, and the fifth just unrelentingly bleak. Adams clearly was sick of the series and wanted to tie up all the loose ends in a neat little package that would end it all for good. (So of course his widow hired the Artemis Fowl guy to write a sequel, which I’ve never read and don’t know if anyone considers it canon.)

  29. matkoniecz says:

    You can post new one and delete old post (if within 1 hour from posting)

    First time posting (after 7 years lurking)

    Welcome!

    so the interface is still quite new to me.

    AFAIK this issue happens if you reply, log in and continue. In case of normal use using “reply” works well.

  30. Belisaurus Rex says:

    Where I live, it is basically considered hate speech to suggest that anyone would be hired based on their race instead of their abilities. It is also common to complain about tokenism. For a long time I thought these were irreconcilable beliefs, but they can go together if you assume that big companies hire one qualified token minority as a sop and then refuse to hire any more qualified minorities due to discrimination. This would mean that there are whole oceans of unemployed, qualified minorities out there.

    Is this true? Are there really whole oceans of qualified minorities searching for jobs? My impression is that if you’re halfway competent you get snapped up in a second, but maybe I’m just blind.

    • Erusian says:

      Anyone who is just basically bog-standard successful in the exact way the company expects (good school, strong work history, etc) and a minority gets snapped up. But this is usually a pretty small pool.

      There are three underused or unavailable pools of human capital in minority communities. Firstly, there are people who could be trained up but simply weren’t. They’re smart, dedicated, etc, but no one’s invested in training them and they don’t have the capital to buy that education.

      Secondly, there are people who are very skilled and talented and use that career leverage to seek out something other than a bog standard corporate environment, especially if they consider it to be racially hypocritical. These people are successful on their own terms but will reject offers from those big corporations to fill a quota.

      Thirdly, there are also people who are very skilled at something that was immediately relevant in their life that may or may not translate into a skill the corporation can use. I’ve met some good salespeople that worked their way from doing grey market stuff to white collar stuff, for example. But these people often suffer from not being used to a corporate environment. Though, to be clear, I can hardly blame them. I hate suits and cubicles too.

      As I say all the time, if you want to have a strong minority presence in your company affirmative action simply doesn’t work. You need to change what your recruiting pool and candidate evaluation looks like. You may need to change policies too. If you keep it the same but give preference to minorities, you just end up competing for a small pool of people who are highly atypical. A simple example: computer science degrees are overwhelmingly male. Women programmers are hugely disproportionately likely to have self taught or gone through bootcamps or things like this. If you require your hires have a degree but privilege women with affirmative action you’re just going to end up competing for a small pool of degreed female programmers while shutting out the majority before you even get there. This doesn’t work.

      But it’s easier to pay someone with a title like VP of Diversity to make changes at the edges than to change something that fundamental. My experience, by the way, is that spending on diversity initiatives anti-correlates with diversity because the people who spend the most do the worst at it naturally. The companies that are majority minority in their hiring tend to not have blunt measures.

      • Ketil says:

        A simple example: computer science degrees are overwhelmingly male. Women programmers are hugely disproportionately likely to have self taught or gone through bootcamps or things like this.

        Interesting – do you have any numbers or references for this? My impression was that bootcamps are also predominantly male, but maybe the ratio is better for alternative paths.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          I would have thought that teaching yourself programming is predominantly a male thing.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Erusian’s claim could still be correct if the populations of self-taught or bootcamp-trained programmers were merely less male-dominated than degreed programmers. New Computer Science graduates in the US have been more than 80% male since about 2007 and were only less than 70% male for roughly the period 1980-1988.

            This page claims that the gender ratio in in-person coding bootcamps was roughly 60/40 male as of 2017 and online-only bootcamps were pretty close to 50/50. I can’t find good numbers for self-taught programmers, but the bootcamp numbers appear to support Erusian’s contention.

          • Erusian says:

            I’m just going to steal your citation because this is what I’m claiming. I’d probably say a majority of the class is still male but there’s a distinct female minority, and a female majority in some specific classes. This is insanely better than colleges get, where you often have 10-20% female participation.

      • C.H. says:

        Anyone who is just basically bog-standard successful in the exact way the company expects (good school, strong work history, etc) and a minority gets snapped up.

        Unless you’re Asian or Indian, then the minority part doesn’t count.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Is this true for people of southeast Asian ethnic ancestry?

        • keaswaran says:

          I think if you want to understand much of this discussion, you should use “minority” as a stand-in for “underrepresented group” – women aren’t actually less than half the population, but they are underrepresented in some of these fields; South and East Asians are a very small fraction of the population in the United States, but they aren’t underrepresented in these fields. Don’t worry about the semantics of “minority” – just try to figure out whether the person means “underrepresented group” when they say “minority”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “Men” is lumped together with “minority” in nursing. And research is being done on how to improve male representation:

            https://minoritynurse.com/men-in-nursing/

            Despite efforts from nursing schools across the nation to recruit and retain more men and minorities, the results have been fairly modest. In 2010, approximately 11% of the students in baccalaureate programs were men and 26.8% were a racial/ethnic minority.2 We know that student nurses, in general, face many obstacles such as academic pressure. However, studies have shown that male student nurses experience additional barriers and discrimination, such as: lack of information and support from guidance counselors; lack of sufficient role models; unequal clinical opportunities and requirements; isolation; poor instruction on the appropriate use of touch; and a lack of teaching strategies appropriate to male learning needs.3-10

        • Erusian says:

          Sure, I meant people who benefit from diversity quotas.

      • At a considerable tangent, your post parallels my view on the situation of home schooled students applying to college. Most of them, including most of the able ones, are missing some of the measures that schools use to evaluate applicants, most obviously grade point average and recommendations from high school teachers. It isn’t that the admissions people are prejudiced against them, just that they don’t know how to evaluate them.

        In our experience with our two home schooled students, we only encountered one school, St Olaf’s, which had apparently recognized this as an opportunity to get good students that other schools were missing. My theory was that St Olaf’s was trying to replace Oberlin in the niche of “top liberal arts school with a professional level music program,” recognized the problem that being a top school requires top students and top students want to go a top school, and was using this approach to find top students the other schools were missing.

      • JayT says:

        Firstly, there are people who could be trained up but simply weren’t. They’re smart, dedicated, etc, but no one’s invested in training them and they don’t have the capital to buy that education.

        I see this type of argument often, but I don’t buy it at all. You need almost no capital at all to get a university degree, especially if you are poor and a minority. If you aren’t seeking the training that is needed, then I question whether or not you are actually “dedicated”.

        • SamChevre says:

          You need almost no capital at all

          I think you are very mistaken. You may not need money, but capital is a lot more than money. Capital includes things like knowing that a university degree would be helpful to your goals; knowing what kind of skills you have that a degree could help with; like knowing when to apply, and how; like knowing what kind of university to apply to.

          There are plenty of people who know only 3 classes of people with degrees: teachers, doctors and nurses, and sleazy lawyers.

          • Clutzy says:

            Maybe. It seems like College Football coaches are quite successful at persuading poor kids that an education will be super valuable. This is a known opportunity in this subset. If you’re a smart kid and get the same offer, just no football, there is not really a plausible mechanism whereby you are confused by it.

          • keaswaran says:

            “College Football coaches are quite successful at persuading poor kids that an education will be super valuable.”

            Is this true? My understanding was that college football coaches are quite successful at persuading poor kids that they can advance their career by joining a college football program. That doesn’t mean that they’ve spent any effort convincing them that the college part would be useful to someone who doesn’t plan on a football career.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Clutzy
            I really want to see an analysis of what kids in all locations know about college and future careers. I’m now a generation removed from applying to college so my ignorance then may not be as applicable today.

            However given the extent that parent career still influences child career, being first in your family to make such a change has to be more difficult.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From what I’ve read, the big problem for poor kids who get into universities is having trouble with their studies and not realizing the university has resources for helping them. A rather subtle sort of capital.

            I thought you were going to bring up opportunity cost. Even a mediocre job might bring in more money in the short run.

          • zzzzort says:

            1st gen college students also tend to have a lot of trouble succeeding at college once they’re there, even controlling for ability. Turns out cultural knowledge about what to do at college is a big deal.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I remember when I was 29 and going to college for the 4th and 5th time to finish a B.S. after a nearly 7 year absence (4th time was to finish an A.S. at the JC, then to the Uni the following year for the B.S.). I looked at the starting homework for Physics I (ungraded – this was just an intro), knew I couldn’t figure out the answers, and had the revelation that I could go to the Math help center for help on the calculus. I was so happy realizing that I can get help. Quite the revelation to a person used to doing it on his own.

            I’m neither poor nor first generation. People outside of those classifications can still be ignorant as heck.

          • Clutzy says:

            I really want to see an analysis of what kids in all locations know about college and future careers. I’m now a generation removed from applying to college so my ignorance then may not be as applicable today.

            So would I. A large problem with the modern social sciences is they don’t seem to actually study things that are interesting and would help us understand society. Or, at least, their work is hard to google search.

          • JayT says:

            Even the poorest of teenagers can go to the library and find out what careers pay the best, and how you can get to that point. If you don’t do that minimal work, then I reiterate that you are most definitely not “dedicated”, and if you don’t know that people with college degrees get paid more, than I’m not so certain you’re smart either.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I’m going based on recollection, so may be remembering wrong. Also the documentary I’m referencing was made in the 90s.

          The movie is “Hoop Dreams“, which follows two African-American boys who were recruited via scholarship into a prep school with a major basketball program. I remember that one of them started out with grade-school level academic skills, but increased by 3 – 5 grade levels in one year. This may have been in preparation for the ACT (I can’t recall).

          3 – 5 grade levels in general academics is a huge increase that shows he was not well served by his situation before.

          And as the movie stated: You do need good ACT/SAT scores to get in to anything other than a Junior College (or you used to).

          If you aren’t seeking the training that is needed

          How the heck are you supposed to both find out what’s needed and figure out how to get it?

        • Erusian says:

          It’s not an argument. I have little interest in wider social implications and I certainly agreeing pouring money into welfare isn’t a panacea. But on the other hand, I’ve personally trained about two dozen people to become coders and earn six figures from severely underprivileged backgrounds the majority of whom were minorities. I’ve also done bootcamp days at several elite universities, including Harvard. There were differences, real differences that would lead to different outcomes, but the proportion of people who could be trained to be useful coders was about the same.

          I am describing a reality, one that I have made money from.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        So it’s a yes, but they’re uncredentialed so as far as the company is concerned, they don’t exist. Is this a case where straight up legalizing IQ tests for hiring would dramatically improve minority prospects?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Why use an IQ test when you can already legally use tests pertinent to the job requirements?

          • Clutzy says:

            Because those are weaker at predicting long term performance and the employee who’s terminated after 6 months is exactly the one that is going to file a lawsuit.

          • cassander says:

            Penitent tests take a lot of time to write and administer, and IQ helps with almost everything.

    • AG says:

      Getting hired is one thing, getting treated equally is another. There have been other incidents in especially the entertainment industry on how minority workers were treated as less than their counterparts, but their mere presence (tokenism) was used as a shield against criticism. I had a couple of links, but they’re both paywalled. Here’s an excerpt from one, and some more testimonials. You can also read the accounts in the BlackInTheIvory hashtag for stories from academia.

  31. MNNC says:

    Dear all,

    (Obligatory first-time poster, long-term lurker disclaimer.)

    I’m an attorney, working with a client to establish a new veteran’s welfare non-profit. It will have a few million in start-up budget and, at first, a reasonably modest regional footprint.

    I was hoping that some of the Effective Altruist-aligned users here might be able to point me to a state of the art, best-practices set of organizations materials for non-profit entities. In an ideal world, these would include everything from model corporate bylaws to board handbooks, reporting templates, grant forms, employee/grant-officer training manuals, etc. However, materials that fall short of this pinnacle of preparedness but that have been used, reviewed and generally approved by the EA community would be much appreciated.

    (I’m looking less for research on EA or arguments in favor of it – the client has already bought into the concept – and more for operational text.)

    Thanks in advance!

    • Erusian says:

      I’ve got experience starting up new non-profits (including specifically some veteran ones) and am EA adjacent. (I’m more of a social enterpriser, but w/e.) You can find some generic ones but my experience is that you generally roll your own. For example, the simple question of what state you’re based in and what states you operate in will change them. Sometimes dramatically. As will what activities you engage in. As will how control is structured and who the stakeholders are.

      Happy to give advice and I can probably find the original templates we used. But all of them were pretty heavily modified. The process we used was to make decisions and then figure out ways to legally work those decisions in. (Or delegated that task to a lawyer.)

    • yodelyak says:

      almanac.io has a lot of good stuff.

      I mostly use it for reference when I’m doing something outside my usual competence, e.g. I referenced several articles there at the start of the pandemic when I needed some outside thoughts/experience on how to manage remote staff, which I suddenly was.

  32. FLWAB says:

    I feel bad for Derek Chauvin and the other police officers who are being charged.

    I read this article that laid out why Derek is probably not going to be convicted. The long and short of it is that Derek followed Minneapolis procedure to the letter. He did what he was trained to do, and that training was based off of research supported by the medical experts. He did things by the book and now he’s being excoriated as a monster by the entire country and is going to be tried for murder. I feel even worse for the other cops who were charged, as they were also following procedure. They do this kind of thing all the time, they followed the guidelines exactly, and usually people don’t die. Apparently two of those officers had only been working for less than a week! And now they’re in jail for murder.

    I would recommend reading the article as it goes into good detail, but here’s a summery from the article itself:

    There are six crucial pieces of information — six facts — that have been largely omitted from discussion on the Chauvin’s conduct. Taken together, they likely exonerate the officer of a murder charge. Rather than indicating illegal and excessive force, they instead show an officer who rigidly followed the procedures deemed appropriate by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The evidence points to the MPD and the local political establishment, rather than the individual officer, as ultimately responsible for George Floyd’s death.
    These six facts are as follows:

    George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

    The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) allows the use of neck restraint on suspects who actively resist arrest, and George Floyd actively resisted arrest on two occasions, including immediately prior to neck restraint being used.

    The officers were recorded on their body cams assessing George Floyd as suffering from “excited delirium syndrome” (ExDS), a condition which the MPD considers an extreme threat to both the officers and the suspect. A white paper used by the MPD acknowledges that ExDS suspects may die irrespective of force involved. The officers’ response to this situation was in line with MPD guidelines for ExDS.

    Restraining the suspect on his or her abdomen (prone restraint) is a common tactic in ExDS situations, and the white paper used by the MPD instructs the officers to control the suspect until paramedics arrive.

    Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

    Chauvin’s neck restraint is unlikely to have exerted a dangerous amount of force to Floyd’s neck. Floyd is shown on video able to lift his head and neck, and a robust study on double-knee restraints showed a median force exertion of approximately approximately 105lbs.

    Let’s be clear: the actions of Chauvin and the other officers were absolutely wrong. But they were also in line with MPD rules and procedures for the condition which they determined was George Floyd was suffering from. An act that would normally be considered a clear and heinous abuse of force, such as a knee-to-neck restraint on a suspect suffering from pulmonary distress, can be legitimatized if there are overriding concerns not known to bystanders but known to the officers. In the case of George Floyd, the overriding concern was that he was suffering from ExDS, given a number of relevant facts known to the officers. This was not known to the bystanders, who only saw a man with pulmonary distress pinned down with a knee on his neck.

    And here is a relevant and prophetic excerpt from the white paper that Minneapolis PD used as support for their policy of restraining people with ExDS in the way Chauvin did (emphasis mine):

    Given the irrational and potentially violent, dangerous, and lethal behavior of an ExDS subject, any LEO interaction with a person in this situation risks significant injury or death to either the LEO or the ExDS subject who has a potentially lethal medical syndrome. This already challenging situation has the potential for intense public scrutiny coupled with the expectation of a perfect outcome. Anything less creates a situation of potential public outrage. Unfortunately, this dangerous medical situation makes perfect outcomes difficult in many circumstances.

    In those cases where a death occurs while in custody, there is the additional difficulty of separating any potential contribution of control measures from the underlying pathology. For example, was death due to the police control tool, or to positional asphyxia, or from ExDS, or from interplay of all these factors? Even in the situation where all caregivers agree that a patient is in an active delirious state, there is no proof of the most safe and effective control measure or therapy for what is most likely an extremely agitated patient.

    There are well-documented cases of ExDS deaths with minimal restraint such as handcuffs without ECD use. This underscores that this is a potentially fatal syndrome in and of itself, sometimes reversible when expert medical treatment is immediately available

    What makes me most sad is that a man died, four men are in jail on murder charges, and riots have destroyed many small businesses and killed several others, all because someone recorded a cop following procedure to the letter as he restrained a man who was on dangerously high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine. As far as I can tell Chauvin was just trying to do his job.

    The article compares Floyd to several other cases where cops have restrained people who were on dangerously high doses from drugs and who died. It happens all the time. So maybe we need to change how police handle people who are in that state. Maybe the current policies are too dangerous. That would be a useful reform. But it seems to me that the riots and protests are not interested in merely reforming police restraining procedures. They’re convinced that Chauvin intentionally killed Floyd because he was black. And when the trial comes and Chauvin is acquitted (because he followed procedure) those people are going to be furious. They’ll be convinced it is yet another racist injustice. And they’ll be wrong. And they’ll burn down more buildings and kill more cops. And nothing will be solved. Or, perhaps worse, Chauvin will be convicted anyway as a sacrifice to show the world that we’re tough on racism. Injustice used to create the perception of justice. I doubt it will happen that way though, our courts system is designed to give the defendant the advantage and Chauvin seems to have a pile of exculpatory evidence to work with.

    This whole situation is depressing.

    • Randy M says:

      Say a cop is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to some time in prison. What is that time expected to be like? Are they kept separate from the general population? Are the other guards careful give or to not give preferential treatment? Are they in danger of their life 24/7 with few if any sympathetic outsiders noticing? Or do other prisoners simply not care?

      I wonder if fear of extrajudicial punishment is one reason cops are unlikely to snitch on even corrupt police?

      (For the record, I am against knowingly allowing prison violence against any prisoner and find jokes about such distasteful, as I’ve mentioned here before.)

      • Gerry Quinn says:

        I don’t think that’s an issue really, society might choose to let the worst child molestors fend for themselves, but in general they try to protect the less egregious offenders from abuse.

      • POGtastic says:

        I can’t speak to anything except for the Arizona corrections system. Like policing, corrections in America are widely decentralized. Policies are determined at the state and often the local level.

        Eyman has a wing of the prison specifically for law enforcement officers who have been convicted of felonies. They’re kept away from everyone else, but they can socialize with each other.

      • (For the record, I am against knowingly allowing prison violence against any prisoner and find jokes about such distasteful, as I’ve mentioned here before.)

        You might be interested in reading David Skarbek’s book, The Social Order of the Underworld, which is about prison gangs. By his account, the rise of prison gangs as an unofficial legal system using violence resulted in a sharp drop in prison murder rates.

        • Randy M says:

          That does sound interesting and the thesis isn’t surprising. Although it slightly undercuts the idea of a major downside to prison being the training or connections one makes in prison enabling an ease of entry into greater crimes upon release.

          Not disproves it, but makes points out an upside, anyway.

    • Jacobethan says:

      In 1890s France, if you believed Alfred Dreyfus was innocent of espionage and being used as a scapegoat for larger national failings, that made you a Dreyfusard.

      If the view becomes more widespread that Derek Chauvin is innocent of at least the most serious charges against him and is being used as a scapegoat for larger national failings, will the proponents be known as Chauvinists?

      (Mainly I just want some future history major to encounter a reference to “male chauvinist pigs” from like 1978 and become thoroughly confused about everything.)

      • FLWAB says:

        will the proponents be known as Chauvinists?

        Thank you for the genuine smile.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Hahahaha, seconding the thanks. Hopefully enterprising hashtaggers will converge on this idea.

    • Aftagley says:

      What makes me most sad is that a man died, four men are in jail on murder charges, and riots have destroyed many small businesses and killed several others, all because someone recorded a cop following procedure to the letter as he restrained a man who was on dangerously high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine. As far as I can tell Chauvin was just trying to do his job.

      I would accept this argument if Floyd had died instantly upon being put in the stressed position. He didn’t. He died slowly over the course of 8:46 and watching the video he was perfectly capable of letting the cops know that he was dying. Putting him in the stressed position is defensible, keeping him in it isn’t.

      Keeping the knee on the neck for that long… I don’t know. I find it to be a criminal lack of empathy on the part of a uniformed official.

      • FLWAB says:

        I find it to be a criminal lack of empathy on the part of a uniformed official.

        Unfortunately Chauvin hasn’t been charged with lack of empathy: he’s been charged with second-degree murder.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Thus the word “criminal” in Aftagley’s post.

          There was a discussion of the Medium article in the previous OT: https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/06/16/open-thread-156-25/#comment-919137

          • FLWAB says:

            Thus the word “criminal” in Aftagley’s post.

            Unless I am mistaken, lack of empathy is not a crime under Minnesota law.

          • Aftagley says:

            lack of empathy is not a crime under Minnesota law.

            Right, but some of the actions that such a lack of empathy empowers are, thank goodness.

            Would you be happier if I phrased it as “the continued use of a maneuver that is seemingly resulting in a man’s slow death is both indicative of a criminal act (second degree murder) and displays a horrendous lack of empathy on the part of the police officer?”

            I read those two statements as being functionally identical, but I’ll be explicit if necessary.

          • gbdub says:

            But manslaughter and negligence are, and I think Chauvin is probably guilty of both.

            I mean, I don’t think he’s guilty of “premeditated murder”, but he kneeled on a handcuffed man’s upper back and neck for 9 minutes while the man slowly died begging for his life. Thats a lot more than merely “lack of empathy”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Unless I am mistaken, lack of empathy is not a crime under Minnesota law.

            The legal term is “depraved indifference for human life”, which if it results in actual death is a crime just about everywhere. Perhaps not 2nd degree murder, almost certainly manslaughter.

            Aftagley’s use of something other than the technical legal term, doesn’t invalidate the argument.

          • FLWAB says:

            Minnesota’s Second Degree Murder law applies to anyone who

            causes the death of a human being, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense

            Chauvin was following police procedure in his position as a law enforcement officer: it is hard to argue that any of those things is a felony offense. Chauvin was also charged with Third Degree Murder which in Minnesota is

            Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life

            This gets closer. Presumably the “criminal lack of empathy” might mean that Chauvin had a depraved mind without regard for human life. However it is hard to argue that a police officer following police procedures on restraining a suspect is acting with a depraved mind. The procedures themselves state that restraining someone with ExDS is always dangerous, but that they need to be restrained anyway to prevent them from hurting others. Given that the procedures say “do this dangerous act in order to prevent others from being hurt” it’s hard to say that Chauvin following those procedures was acting without regard for human life. Juries may disagree.

            That leaves us the last charge of Second Degree Manslaughter which Minnesota defines as

            A person who causes the death of another by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another

            So the question is, did Chauvin show culpable negligence by creating an unreasonable risk? Considering that PD procedure stated clearly that restraining people with ExDs is risky but cops should do it anyway, it seems arguable that by following his training Chauvin was making a reasonable risk. If the risk wasn’t reasonable then why would he be trained to take it? If the risk is unreasonable then Chauvin could hardly be culpable for thinking it was reasonable given that he was provided with training that told him it was a reasonable risk.

            Conviction will be difficult given these considerations. There is no law that requires Chauvin to listen to people he is restraining, and as far as I can tell the ExDs procedure Chauvin followed does not have a clause that says “do this unless the person you’re restraining says he can’t breathe.”

          • DeWitt says:

            Chauvin was following police procedure in his position as a law enforcement officer: it is hard to argue that any of those things is a felony offense.

            If police procedure proscribes something that’s a felony offense, it’s still a felony offense. If the MPD’s procedure proscribed for police officers to set the first red car they see on fire every Friday the 13th it is still criminal for them to comply, no matter what the department says.

      • AliceToBob says:

        @Aftagley

        I would accept this argument if Floyd had died instantly upon being put in the stressed position. He didn’t. He died slowly over the course of 8:46 and watching the video he was perfectly capable of letting the cops know that he was dying. Putting him in the stressed position is defensible, keeping him in it isn’t.

        An important question might be: How long does it take for someone with Floyd’s health/weight/age/etc., and with those levels of fentanyl and meth in his system, to die in a non-stressed position?

        Perhaps it’s within the realm of plausible for someone to die of those drug doses over a period of minutes, slowly losing consciousness as the respiratory distress gets worse. Maybe it’s rare for someone in that situation to die instantly. Do we know either way?

        • Aftagley says:

          An important question might be: How long does it take for someone with Floyd’s health/weight/age/etc., and with those levels of fentanyl and meth in his system, to die in a non-stressed position?

          Years, not minutes. There has been no evidence presented that indicates Floyd was on track to die prior to his involvement with the police.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Aftagley

            Years, not minutes. There has been no evidence presented that indicates Floyd was on track to die prior to his involvement with the police.

            The medium piece may turn out to be fiction, but it’s making at least one claim that runs counter to yours:

            Floyd’s autopsy revealed a potentially lethal concoction of drugs — not just a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, but also methamphetamine. Together with his history of drug abuse and two serious heart conditions, Floyd’s condition was exceptionally and unusually fragile.

            If true, then I don’t know if this implies minutes to live, or it’s more likely for someone to die instantly or years later from this potentially lethal fentanyl dose (and some meth).

            A central claim seems to be that the knee on the neck killed Floyd. The medium article suggests it may have been some combination of drugs and the knee. Perhaps the knee was indeed the murder weapon. Or perhaps the knee was a negligible factor, and Floyd would have lapsed into unconsciousness and death in the same amount of time otherwise due to the drugs.

            I don’t know and, again, the medium article may show up as bunk in court. But I don’t understand how you’re arriving at conclusions that a) had Floyd died “instantly”, it would validate one interpretation of events, or b) that Floyd necessarily had “years” to live.

            edited: forgot quotes around the medium article’s text.

        • gbdub says:

          I believe both the MEs (county and Floyd’s legal team’s) ruled the death a homicide, differing only in whether his existing health issues were a contributing factor. So the question is kind of moot – we are not going to get a better answer.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ gdub

            So the question is kind of moot – we are not going to get a better answer.

            I’m nowhere near as confident as you that this issue has been explored fully and won’t come up during the trial, but I guess we’ll see.

          • gbdub says:

            I mean, unless there is third autopsy report, which there won’t be because Floyd is buried, expert opinion is that, whatever other health issues he may or may not have had, he died of homicide.

            The Floyd family autopsy said “asphyxiation”. The county ME said “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” which seems to be a fancy way of saying “his heart and lungs gave out because of the way he was restrained”.

            Not much room in there to get “he OD’d and Chauvin had nothing to do with it”

          • AliceToBob says:

            @gdub

            I mean, unless there is third autopsy report, which there won’t be because Floyd is buried, expert opinion is that, whatever other health issues he may or may not have had, he died of homicide…

            …Not much room in there to get “he OD’d and Chauvin had nothing to do with it”

            Okay, but again, I don’t see this as necessarily being the end of the story on this aspect.

            Might the defense have medical experts testify in ways that undermine the prior reports?

            Must the defense argue Chauvin had nothing to do with it in order to thwart a murder charge?

            Could Floyd’s underlying conditions mentioned in the ME report–like fentanyl– be used to mitigate the charge of murder?

            You seem pretty confident that these issues are moot. I just don’t share your confidence.

          • Cliff says:

            The article does make the claim that those with excited delirium may struggle against any restraint of any nature until their hearts give out, but that failure to restrain them is dangerous to others as well as themselves, and they may still die without any restraint.

    • Pandemic Shmandemic says:

      Yeah, so that’s a load of horse crap and “excited delirium syndrome” seems to be a fictitious condition made up solely for the purpose of justifying the use of force, an attempt to put on a medical facade on “that guy looks angry, might get violent as far as we can tell”. It is basically unfalsifiable, especially by medically untrained people in the field, does not seem to be recognized by any serious medical organization that is not tied to law enforcement and the fact that they were talking about it means nothing because that is probably what they were taught to do to preemptively cover their asses.

      I really hope that “they were just following orders and procedures” won’t cut it here for anyone involved and fwiw I supported George Zimmerman’s acquittal based on the evidence that he was physically assaulted prior to shooting and I also don’t think George Floyds murder was racially motivated per se in that it could have been committed just as easily against a white suspect or against a black one by one of the black trainees.

      • rumham says:

        I have spent many hours arguing with a police officer about the over-use/abuse of excited delirium as a condition to explain post taser deployment deaths. But I have an EMT friend who mentioned to me that he was trained for it and has seen it a few times in the wild.

        • Pandemic Shmandemic says:

          Intoxicated or even sober people getting violently angry when confronted by cops or EMTs is not a new or disputed phenomena, but wrapping it up in a “syndrome” to make it more weighty in reports and legal proceedings and using it to justify the use of force before the subject has shown any signs of violence or offered physical resistance is just theater.

          And once restrained it would have been even less justified to keep him with a knee pressed against his neck in if the officers genuinely believed he was in a medical distress.

          • rumham says:

            Intoxicated or even sober people getting violently angry when confronted by cops or EMTs is not a new or disputed phenomena

            I think it’s a bit more than that. I haven’t seen this in any official definition, but the way he described his experience with it was that the person gets ramped up and just keeps ramping up until his heart stops. He saw one guy drop from it before the cops arrived, so not restrained in any way.

            And once restrained it would have been even less justified to keep him with a knee pressed against his neck in if the officers genuinely believed he was in a medical distress.

            This I agree with, but if someone is cuffed and detained, then if they get away, is the city legally responsible if he hurts himself? If so, this could be helped by altering the incentives.

          • Pandemic Shmandemic says:

            I think it’s a bit more than that. I haven’t seen this in any official definition

            That’s because there is no official definition. Drug-induced psychosis is a thing, cardiac overload from drugs like cocaine or amphetamines is a thing, violent rage (which also raises blood pressure) is a thing – take two or more of these and here’s your syndrome.

            With George Floyd there were no signs of him being in violent rage and he didn’t attempt to overpower Chauvin, ask your EMT friend after having them watch the video if this was the state they were taught to recognize as excited delirium.

            This I agree with, but if someone is cuffed and detained, then if they get away, is the city legally responsible if he hurts himself? If so, this could be helped by altering the incentives.

            If the city is not legally responsible for killing him it will probably not be legally responsible if he hurts himself but if the concern here is for the safety of the officers they could cuff his ankles together, a lot easier than pressing a knee against his neck for 10 minutes.

          • Aapje says:

            @Pandemic Shmandemic

            It doesn’t describe (merely) violent anger, but a state where people are insensitive to pain (which negates many of the less lethal police weapons), act very irrationally and self-destructively and have extreme strength (which makes controlling the person very difficult).

            For example, see this video. At one point the guy is taking a break (or at least, yelling “I am Dimitrius” over and over) and the cops try to take advantage by hitting his legs with their batons to take him down. He doesn’t even flinch. Earlier they repeatedly pepper sprayed him to no effect. Once they do manage to get him down, it takes 5 men using a lot of violence to keep him down.

            And once restrained it would have been even less justified to keep him with a knee pressed against his neck in if the officers genuinely believed he was in a medical distress.

            The issue is that ‘restrained’ is relative. The common forms of restraint work in no small part by convincing the suspect that their chance of escape is small or non-existent and them giving up on resisting. Dealing with people who lack that conviction is extremely hard, since they will use any physical freedom to attack (kicking, biting, spitting, headbutting, etc), attempt to escape or test out how much freedom they actually have. For some people, you can add self-destructive behavior to that list.

            If you look at it from Chauvin’s point of view, he is dealing with a person who fiercely resisted being put in the police car and who only calmed down when put in this position. The behavior of this person matched what he was told about excited delirium, so he was trained to believe that this hold was best for the suspect. The person already claimed to have difficulty breathing while standing up, so if he says the same when lying down, is he still hyperventilating from the fight & is his breathing going to improve when restrained effectively? Or is it going to get worse? Or doesn’t the hold change what was going to happen anyway?

            I think that any answer given with confidence is based on ideology and/or bias, rather than scientific fact.

            With hindsight it is easy to argue that because he died when held like this, he must have lived if let up. Of course, if he had gone back to fighting with the police in that scenario and had died while the police was struggling with him, the activists would probably find fault with that too.

          • DeWitt says:

            There is also the question of whether or not policemen are qualified to diagnose anyone with obscure medical conditions on the fly, and whether or not they should get away with murder by claiming that they were super duper sure they had the scawy angwy mood, your honor.

          • Aapje says:

            @Pandemic Shmandemic

            With George Floyd there were no signs of him being in violent rage and he didn’t attempt to overpower Chauvin

            We are missing several minutes just before the three officers held him on the ground, when they struggled with him in the car.

            If the city is not legally responsible for killing him it will probably not be legally responsible if he hurts himself but if the concern here is for the safety of the officers they could cuff his ankles together

            Handcuffs are not designed for the legs and the police typically seems to use special cuffs, if they cuff the legs. Were these available?

            Also, in the Donald Lewis case, the guy’s hands and legs were cuffed and a (black) police officer still thought it necessary to place a knee on the suspect’s neck.

            @DeWitt

            That goes both ways, though. Are they any more qualified to judge when someone is in medical distress?

          • DeWitt says:

            I don’t really understand why you’re asking this, but I’d argue that they are not (meaningfully) more qualified, no.

      • FLWAB says:

        “excited delirium syndrome” seems to be a fictitious condition made up solely for the purpose of justifying the use of force

        The American College of Emergency Physicians disagrees. Do you have a source backing up the claim that it is a fictitious condition?

        • Pandemic Shmandemic says:

          It’s an accusation, not a claim. Superfluous is probably a better term than fictitious.

          • Aapje says:

            So you are arguing that the symptoms do exist, for which the police of Minneapolis decided that this was the appropriate response, but that it is not in itself a single medical condition?

            If so, is that relevant? After all, the police are not going to treat ill people, but just have to deal with the symptoms people exhibit. If there are two different illnesses that are hard to distinguish, but there is police behavior that works relatively well in both situations, doesn’t it make sense to just teach the police that it is one thing? Just because it may matter to a doctor whether it is A or B, because the doctor has to give medicine A or B, doesn’t mean that it matters to the police.

          • Pandemic Shmandemic says:

            Yes this is relevant, if the responding police officers were acting on the assumption that he was suffering from ExDS which was a bona fide life threatening medical condition then once calm and not resisting, which according to all reports was the case before Chauvin even arrived they were supposed to treat it as a medical emergency and get some EMTs on the scene rather than trying to get him into the police car.

            From the video it is pretty clear that the reason Chauvin kept kneeling on his neck was not to restrain him but to use it as punishment in order to get him to get up and get into the police car.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “but to use it as punishment in order to get him to get up and get into the police car.”

            Worse than that, Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd’s neck while telling Floyd to get into the police car.

    • slapdashbr says:

      Bullshit. That medium post is bullshit. The author is both lying and omitting the extremely limited scope when certain actions may be legally performed.

      George Floyd was experiencing cardiopulmonary and psychological distress minutes before he was placed on the ground, let alone had a knee to his neck.

      How does the author know this? They don’t. They’re making shit up.

      “Excited Delirium syndrome” is something made up by a coroner to justify the deaths of arrestees killed by police violence. It’s “forensic science” made up to help the police with no more evidential backing than bite-mark analysis.

      • Pandemic Shmandemic says:

        This, has anyone ever successfully used ExDS as a mitigating argument against assault or resisting arrest charge ?

      • Don P. says:

        In terms of incentives: maybe what’s needed is for a few verdicts of “those cops were trained to believe something blatantly and stupidly false, which caused them to commit a crime”, and then the famed police unions can start demanding that their officers not be taught garbage that leads to them committing second-degree homicides. I mean, if nothing else works.

        • AG says:

          That only works so long as someone actually gets convicted despite the defense. If it’s a successful defense, the union’s incentive is to keep that useful defense around.

      • FLWAB says:

        How does the author know this? They don’t. They’re making shit up.

        They got that information from the government complaint against Derek Chauvin. It says (emphasis mine):

        The officers made several attempts to get Mr. Floyd in the backseat of squad 320 from the driver’s side. Mr. Floyd did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers by intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still. Mr. Floyd is over six feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds.

        While standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying and repeating that he could not breathe. The defendant went to the passenger side and tried to get Mr. Floyd into the car from that side and Lane and Kueng assisted.

        This is a statement of the facts as understood by the prosecution. Why would they lie in a way that would make their case harder?

    • DeWitt says:

      How far exactly are we going to be willing to extend this reasoning?

      Let us take the hypothetical Policetopia. The local precinct has very stringent guidelines and training procedures; in Policetopia, you see, officers are taught from day 1 that criminals have superhuman arteries and can literally never die from getting shot. They’re going to drop, all right, but will never die.

      Should the state prosecute Policetopian officers who end up murdering whosoever they shoot ‘because they were trained to do so?’

      Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck well after the man was cuffed and incapacitated. That he cannot be prosecuted for murder is an unfortunate consequence of having a properly working legal system, but arguing that he shouldn’t be convicted of murder is a hard sell in my eyes.

      • FLWAB says:

        For your argument to make sense, the precinct procedure on restraining individuals with ExDs would have to be obviously false to an reasonable person, in the same way that saying criminals can’t die from being shot is obviously false to a reasonable person. In comparison the procedure on restraining ExDs individuals specifically states that retraining ExDs individuals is risky but necessarily risky to prevent the individual from hurting themselves or others. It has a nice white paper attached to back up this idea, a paper put out by experts at the American College of Emergency Physicians.

        You are a new cop. You’re trained that individuals with ExDs are a danger to themselves and others, and this it is reasonably safe to restrain them and that the best way to do so is to put them on their bellies and hold them down with a knee. You’re specifically told that cuffing the individual is not good enough and is unsafe, and that hey must be held down while you wait for EMTs to arrive. Why wouldn’t a reasonable person believe that?

        • DeWitt says:

          You are a new cop.

          Chauvin wasn’t. Not by any means.

          You’re trained that individuals with ExDs are a danger to themselves and others, and this it is reasonably safe to restrain them and that the best way to do so is to put them on their bellies and hold them down with a knee.

          Uh huh.

          You’re specifically told that cuffing the individual is not good enough and is unsafe, and that hey must be held down while you wait for EMTs to arrive.

          You can tie them to a post or even just up in your car.

          Why wouldn’t a reasonable person believe that?

          Because a reasonable person would not be one who’d keep kneeling on his very literal neck until the man in question died from asphyxiation, as opposed to finding just about any other way of restraining the arrestee.

          • FLWAB says:

            Then suppose we disagree. If I was trained that restraining someone with ExDs was necessary, and that the proper way to do it was to kneel on their back or neck, I would believe it. If I were trained that bullets don’t kill criminals I wouldn’t believe it.

          • DeWitt says:

            I don’t think training should ever be grounds for exoneration; if nothing else, the opposite ought to be true. Chauvin ought to have known better, not worse, than to kill the man he was supposed to arrest. A precedent that your training is a valid alibi to murder someone is going to lead to some very ugly places once the police realise that all they need to do is to gesture vaguely at a list of procedures.

          • Aapje says:

            @DeWitt

            That is an anti-democratic point of view. The rules are made by ‘you,’ the citizens, through the democratic process.

            You are actually demanding a police state if you argue that the police shouldn’t have to obey the rules that politics set them. Also, you seem to believe that having cops apply their own common sense will obviously lead to less dangerous/violent/etc behavior, which…is far from obvious.

            Or perhaps you want the judges to ignore the rules set by the democratic process. Then you don’t have a police state, but a ‘judge state.’

          • DeWitt says:

            Democratic process? Democratic process how? By sheer separation of powers, the police act to uphold the law, which is indeed decided upon by democratic means. Internal police department guidelines are not themselves the law, nor are they subject to democratic oversight. I do not consider them legally relevant.

          • until the man in question died from asphyxiation

            We know that he died. Has it been established that he died from asphyxiation?

        • John Schilling says:

          For your argument to make sense, the precinct procedure on restraining individuals with ExDs would have to be obviously false to an reasonable person, in the same way that saying criminals can’t die from being shot is obviously false to a reasonable person.

          Chauvin is not facing felony charges for kneeling on Floyd’s back and neck. Chauvin is facing felony charges for kneeling on Floyd’s back and neck even after Floyd had been handcuffed, after Floyd had ceased resisting, after Floyd had ceased moving at all, after numerous bystanders had indicated that Floyd was dying, after other police officers twice suggested shifting to a different hold, after Floyd had in fact died, and even after another officer had checked and found that Floyd had no pulse.

          A policy that actually directs police officers to do all of those things, would be obviously murderous in nature to any reasonable person. Anyone writing such a policy should probably be facing a conspiracy or accessory to murder charge themselves.

          A policy that merely instructs officers to apply a neck restraint to ExDS suspects while they are resisting arrest or actively endangering innocent life, would be a reasonable one. But it would not justify or even explain Chauvin’s maintaining the hold once Floyd had ceased resisting (or moving, or breathing).

          In neither case can Chauvin reasonably avail himself of the “I was just following orders!” defense.

    • rahien.din says:

      a cop following procedure to the letter

      “I followed procedure. Perps with EXD are medically fragile” means “I knew that this situation was unsafe, but what was most important to me in the moment was not the citizen’s physical safety, but whether I could get punished.”

      Good procedures are necessary, but they won’t save citizens from bad cops. If you think making an arrest for a minor crime is worth risking someone’s life, you’re just a bad cop.

      Even in the situation where all caregivers agree that a patient is in an active delirious state, there is no proof of the most safe and effective control measure or therapy for what is most likely an extremely agitated patient

      Not true. Activated delirium happens in hospitals not infrequently. It typically happens to patients who are far more medically fragile than this victim. And yet, these patients are restrained in a safe way by less physically-capable personnel.

      • FLWAB says:

        “I followed procedure. Perps with EXD are medically fragile” means “I knew that this situation was unsafe, but what was most important to me in the moment was not the citizen’s physical safety, but whether I could get punished.”

        I think that’s uncharitable. It see it more as “I knew that this situation as unsafe, so I made sure to follow procedures put in place to keep myself, the person I’m arresting, and bystanders as safe as possible.” Ostensibly that’s what the procedure is for. Maybe it’s bad at accomplishing that, but that is why it exists.

      • Aapje says:

        @rahien.din

        It typically happens to patients who are far more medically fragile than this victim. And yet, these patients are restrained in a safe way by less physically-capable personnel.

        The reports on the condition suggests that anesthesia is the only safe way to restrain the victim. One of the big differences between cops and medical personnel is that the former are authorized and trained to use violence, but banned from administering drugs, while the latter are authorized and trained to administer drugs, but banned from using violence.

        Can cops be blamed for not doing the thing they are banned from doing?

        • DeWitt says:

          EDIT,: I am in the wrong here, an ambulance was indeed called.

          They can be blamed for not even having bothered with trying to call medical personnel for sure.

          • FLWAB says:

            But they did call medical personnel. That’s what they were waiting for. Chauvin tried to get Floyd in the police car, he refused to, Chauvin decides Floyd is on drugs, Chauvin restrains Floyd and calls an ambulence. Then they wait for the ambulance to arrive while restraining Floyd. The ambulance arrives a few minutes after Floyd dies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s how I understand the timeline.

          • DeWitt says:

            Interesting. I had to look that back up, and it seems you are right about the ambulance thing. Fair enough.

            Edit again: on another review, I’m once again not sure whether this ought to exonerate Chauvin. An awful lot of time goes by between the point where they arrest Floyd, where they decide to choke him out, and where they call an ambulance. The EMTs were not called rifht away.

  33. SG says:

    I’m trying to make sense of a discussion that was in the comments of this post on Steve Hsu’s blog: https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2020/06/twitter-attacks-and-defense-of.html It started with someone’s statement that “biology departments are highly feminized nowadays”:

    Commenter (not me)>What does “biology departments are highly feminized nowadays” mean? Is it just that biology departments have hired more women than other departments in the sciences? Or is there something else about the nature of biology department nowadays?
    > It means that the emphasis is no longer on science (rigor) but on felt identity and lived experience and other insane bullshit.
    >It means Purdue’s Engineering School’s Dean of Education has added mandatory courses in “inclusion” that will “explain” to students that there is no such thing as “mathematical truth”, only social constructs infected and shaped by racist and sexist prejudices. God help us if we ever have to cross a bridge designed by a Purdue grad.

    My question, which I’m not sure anyone there will answer: All I can find so far on the Purdue Engineering website is a requirement that undergraduates take one ethics course, with a list of options to choose from. I haven’t looked through all of the engineering majors yet, but do you have a link to more information about these new inclusion course(s)? Or examples of this type of course at other universities and where they fit in to the existing programs of study? So far this looks like a pretty traditional engineering program but maybe I’m not looking in the right place.

    Adding:
    From my perspective as a graduate student, we do talk a lot about inclusion and identity as it relates to hiring and teaching practices, but it’s not really built into the curriculum in the way that these commenters are describing. We do talk about the way that culture affects different fields in non-obvious ways, including STEM, but that’s quite far from declaring that “there’s no such thing as mathematical truth.” I’d like to understand how much curricula and research are changing in practice. I don’t mean so much the “cancel culture” part, but rather how any of these ideas are playing out in actual teaching and research. I’m also curious: do people consider qualitative research to be a “feminized” approach?

    More thoughts: the battle of “rigor vs. inclusion” has been playing out in a number of different fields for a long time. My opinion is that it’s a false dichotomy, but I’d like to understand it better. One thing that would help is looking at examples of specific decisions that educators/researchers have made (should I teach this vs. that?) and whether there’s a third option.

    • Gerry Quinn says:

      Well, the idea of a field being “highly feminised” turns me off – women’s brains, just like men’s, function logically much of the time. If you are going to say “highly influenced by feminist ideology” or “male professors in the field are totally c—-d”, say so, and I will consider your assertion.

      • SG says:

        I mean I was trying to skip past that phrasing for a moment to understand the substance of the complaint. It’s a little hard not to react to “feminized,” but if the word was “blorbled” or something and you were trying to understand what topics/approaches were being grouped under that and which were not, what sense would you make of the discussion?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

        — C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books“

        I think it is not sufficiently noted how women are hurt by academic feminism (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine. Women and non-Asian minorities get held to lower standards as a mark of empathy, or something.
        Then full-blooded sexists and racists turn this ideology around and say things like “The reason higher education doesn’t turn highly logical STEM grads who can also read Classics in the original is that they admitted women, who tore down standards they couldn’t meet due to biology, LOL.”

        • DeWitt says:

          (all leftism, actually)

          Nah.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Are you thinking of Marxism?

          • DeWitt says:

            (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine.

            I don’t think you actually believe this, since I don’t think anyone on SSC is stupid or evil enough to believe this. I reject the premise entirely.

        • broblawsky says:

          I’ve been trying to ignore the straw-leftist positions put up on SSC by various posters for the last couple of weeks, so as to avoid getting into more stupid, pointless arguments, but this is beyond the pale. Less of this, please.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sorry. I am just extremely confused. I was trying to claim that the Foucault and Derrida type New Left exists and has supplanted the Old Left (Marxism) in academia. Derrida coined neologisms like “phallogocentrism”. I’ll stop talking about the social status of postmodernism/post-structuralism/deconstruction if you want. I’m just extremely confused that bringing it up is a “Less of this, please.”

          • Randy M says:

            @Dewitt
            I realize this thread has irritated you, and you may not mean this quite literally. But if you do, could you define evil such that this is an extreme example of it?

          • DeWitt says:

            @Randy

            Evil here is knowingly lying about people when you know you are doing so. Here we have a poster who is spreading spurious lies about all of leftism; I think it wholly, truly, immensely obvious that what she’s accusing all of leftism of believing is false. So much so that she is either genuine and extremely stupid for believing her own lies, or lying for her own purposes and evil for it.

            (I also accidentally reported your own comment in the process of replying to it, sorry. My bad.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @DeWitt: I’m trying to apologize that “academic feminism, but also the rest of the New Left” came out wrong. It seemed to me that Foucault and Derrida, et al, eclipsed the Old Left in popularity in academia, a claim I thought was relatively mainstream due to high-profile events like the Sokal affair and Sokal Squared.
            Like, Marx was demonstrably wrong but he believed in logic and derived conclusions from data he collected in the British Library. That’s very much not what I was talking about and keep trying to apologize.

            EDIT: @Randy: That was what I was trying to state. That there’s a thing called the New Left (often called postmodernism, though the most prestigious writers like Foucault preferred other terms like post-structuralism) that university feminism is a part of.

          • Randy M says:

            Le Maistre Chat, I think you meant to state that more strains of academic leftism than just feminism treat logic as inherently masculine and thus object to it being seen as a superior reasoning method.

            Your post is being read, uncharitably but not unreasonably, as saying all liberals, academic or otherwise, eschew reason.

            (I could be wrong and really have no business in this thread but want to offer a better phrasing in case of genuine misunderstanding)

          • broblawsky says:

            feminism (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine

            As a leftist and a feminist, I don’t think that this is a majority position among leftists, or even a substantial minority position among leftists. If anything, the stereotype on left – which I personally disagree with – is the opposite: men are overly-emotional (in an aggressive, brittle, easily wounded way) and women are reasonable and practical (in an empathetic way). Personally, I feel like you invented this belief without actually talking to any leftists or feminists about their ideas, which is why I described it as a strawman argument.

            Regarding your position on postmodernism – I don’t think that postmodernism is responsible for the introduction of humanities as a requirement for STEM classes. If anything, AFAICT, students used to be held to even higher standards for non-STEM classes before the introduction of postmodernism. My personal feeling, as a STEM graduate, is that postmodernism is almost entirely irrelevant to the decisions made as to modern college curricula.

          • broblawsky says:

            I think you could make an argument that postmodernism is prestigious in academia, but if your logical chain is:
            a) Postmodernist feminism is prestigious in academia
            b) Postmodernist feminism regards logic as masculine and emotion as feminine, and considers the latter superior
            c) Due to a) and b) classes requiring logic are reduced in importance and classes requiring emotion are increased in importance.

            Then b) is utterly unsupported and appears to be either a case of projection, a strawman, or both. Also, c) can only proceed from a) if you assume that that academic prestige results in the ability to dictate curricula outside of the humanities, and I don’t think there’s any evidence for that.

            Moreover, this is just one in a series of fallacious misrepresentations of leftists here on SSC. It doesn’t seem to matter how much work we employ to explain our ideas; rightists thank us for our contributions, then ignore them so that they can call us tyrannical morons.

          • Belisaurus Rex says:

            I think this is one of those situations where both sides take a disliked group or stereotype and try to attribute it to the other side.

            Are paternal attitudes towards women liberal or conservative? You can make an argument for or against either, but not everything has to fall along political lines. (even in an election year)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @broblawsky:

            It doesn’t seem to matter how much work we employ to explain our ideas; rightists thank us for our contributions, then ignore them so that they can call us tyrannical morons.

            Sorry, I spoke a term error and didn’t mean to do this.
            I think the root problem is that those of us who are cancelable are trying to understand the dialectical underpinnings of the cancelling people system. When mobs do things like cancel statues of Christopher Columbus, it bears a resemblance to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, but it would be false to say Maoism is their ideology. We want to reason out what it’s called,who believes it, and why.
            I understand it’s not fair to use the same label for you as the current criminal mobs and Twitter mobs. I’m trying to avoid outgroup homogeneity bias in labeling their ideology.

        • lhudde says:

          I think it is not sufficiently noted how women are hurt by academic feminism (all leftism, actually) treating logic as masculine and lack of rigor/emotions as feminine.

          To be fair, I don’t think you can fairly blame this on the modern Left, and certainly not on modern feminism. The tendency to position emotion/spirit and logic/rigor as opposites, which then get mapped onto a gender binary, has been around at least since the mid-18th-century (Thomas Laqueur definitely has his weaknesses, but I do like his account of this shift in models).

          My sense is that the culture gets way more invested in that binary through the 19th century, as industrialization tends to associate (masculine) labor ever-more-strongly with machines, accounting, and cold soulless business relations that do violence to normal human sensibilities. Meanwhile, the middle-class home gets the productive economic activity drained out of it and becomes reimagined as this unproductive leisure space of female nurture, spirit and love, where everything is personal and you just roll around in your feeeelings all day long.

          The modern Left is generally in the Romantic tradition, so I think they tend to unconsciously assume the truth of both the logic/emotion binary and the associated mapping to masculine/feminine (while likely also agreeing with the mainstream Romantic sense that the feminine spirit-and-feeling is the more valuable and high-status half of the pairing, for both men and women). But lots of socially conservative movements have also preached that binary.

          (For my part, I miss the good old days when being ruled by your passions was a bad thing for men AND for women. What a weird world we live in.)

      • Aapje says:

        @Gerry Quinn

        Perhaps the person meant people-oriented/empathizing vs thing-oriented/systematizing.

        There is fairly strong scientific evidence for a substantial differences in where the peaks are for the normal distribution, for men vs women. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t collect binders full of very thing-oriented women and people-oriented men.

        women’s brains, just like men’s, function logically much of the time.

        No, ‘normal’ people (of either gender) don’t think logically. Or at least, far from 100% logically, because I object to your entire black/white framing, where one thinks either logically or one doesn’t.

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          Note that I said “much of the time” allowing for a healthy amount of irrationality regardless of sex. Also, the original post I objected to was about fields of research becoming “feminised”. Fields of research are supposed to be more logically centred than the thoughts of any particular person.

    • Aftagley says:

      We do talk about the way that culture affects different fields in non-obvious ways, including STEM, but that’s quite far from declaring that “there’s no such thing as mathematical truth.”

      My personal perspective is that kind of person who is most likely to complain about these kinds of classes is the least likely to have actually been through some of them.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Edit to add: https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2020/06/twitter-attacks-and-defense-of.html#comment-4952559088
      Wow, that post is a straight up screed against a changing status quo (by an academic retiree).

      I bet it’s a CW twist of the standard complaint against Gen Ed requirements.

      https://catalog.purdue.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=10&poid=15989&returnto=13408

      Fall 1st Year
      *- CHM 11500 – General Chemistry ♦ (FYE Requirement #5) – Credit Hours: 4.00
      *- ENGR 13100 – Transforming Ideas To Innovation I ♦ (FYE Requirement #1) – Credit Hours: 2.00
      *- MA 16100 – Plane Analytic Geometry And Calculus I ♦ (FYE Requirement #3) – Credit Hours: 5.00 or
      *- MA 16500 – Analytic Geometry And Calculus I ♦ (FYE Requirement #3) – Credit Hours: 4.00
      *- Written Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours: 3.00-4.00 (Satisfies Written Communication for Core) or
      *- Oral Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours:3.00 (Satisfies Oral Communication for Core)

      There is an identical requirement the second semester.

      For the Written Communication requirement you need to select from the following courses:
      *- AMST 10100 America and the World
      *- CLCS 23100 Survey of Latin Literature (Summer 2019 and earlier only)
      *- CLCS 23700 Gender & Sexuality in Greek & Roman Antiquity (Summer 2019 and earlier only)
      *- CLCS 33900 Literature and the Law (Summer 2019 and earlier only)
      *- COM 20400 Critical Perspectives on Communication
      *- EDCI 20500 Exploring Teaching as a Career
      *- ENGL 10600 First Year Composition
      *- ENGL 10800 Accelerated First Year Composition:
      *- HONR 19903 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Writing
      *- PHIL 26000 Philosophy & Law
      *- SCLA 10100 Transformative Texts: Critical Thinking & Communication I: Antiquity to Modernity
      *- SPAN 33000 Spanish And Latin American Cinema (Summer 2020 and earlier only)

      For Oral communication from the following courses:
      *- COM 11400 Fundamentals of Speech Communication
      *- COM 21700 Science Writing and Presentations
      *- EDPS 31500 Collaborative Leadership: Interpersonal Skills (Fall 2013 and after only)
      *- SCLA 10200 Transformative Texts: Critical Thinking & Communication II: Modern World

      For the University itself, the following Gen Ed graduation requirements exist for all majors (I presume):
      University Core Requirements
      *- Human Cultures Humanities
      *- Human Cultures Behavioral/Social Science
      *- Information Literacy
      *- Science #1
      *- Science #2
      *- Science, Technology, and Society
      *- Written Communication
      *- Oral Communication
      *- Quantitative Reasoning

      Just based on the course titles I bet the bolded courses, at the very least, discuss philosophical and ethical concerns that the poster has a problem with.

      • SG says:

        Thanks for the reply. Huh. This seems like totally standard general ed to me, plus students get to pick which one they take.

        • Aapje says:

          I think it depends very much on the content of the courses. For example, take COM 20400 Critical Perspectives on Communication.

          Such courses typically teach students to critically assess the goal of the person doing the communicating. However, this can be taught in a way that respects the person as a complex human being or it can stereotype them (for example, as an old white male), causing the communication to be judged based on that stereotype, rather on what was actually communicated.

          Anyway, I listened to a little interview with the teacher of the course intended for prospective students & read the lecture notes. I definitely see a substantial leftist bias. For example, he spends one class doing his best to advocate Marxism and have his students reflect critically on that. Then he does the same on other days, discussing: ‘modernism,’ postmodernism, critical theory and race theory (including standpoint theory, that those with less power have a more objective view).

          According to the teacher, the goal is for the students to be able to able to distinguish these theories, but they are all leftist theories. No conservatism, libertarianism, isolationism, etc. So the course seems to reduce the outgroup homogeneity bias towards the left, but keep it the same or increase it towards the right. Also, by having the trained and experienced teacher make the case for various leftist ideologies and have the students rebut that a bit (surely not that well), it seems to me that it works as a sort of menu offering: these are the ideologies that you can choose from.

          Teaching students the actual strengths and weaknesses of an ideology doesn’t involve bombarding them with the best arguments for the ideology from many different philosophers and then having them make up counterarguments on the spot, but also present the best counterarguments that exist. As it is done now, the deck is being stacked.

          • broblawsky says:

            Or you could just take Spanish And Latin American Cinema. Nobody’s making prospective students take a specific class.

          • Belisaurus Rex says:

            Spanish and Latin American Cinema is the only *safe* one, and even there it’s likely to be Pro-Allende and anti-Pinochet movies.

          • Aapje says:

            @broblawsky

            You don’t think that there is politics in Spanish And Latin American cinema??

            Anyway, I was primarily responding the claim that this is just “standard general ed.” I disagree with that. I think that if a right-wing or centrist person would teach COM 20400, it would not be taught this way.

            So then it is not ‘standard’, but ideological in nature.

      • proyas says:

        *- Written Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours: 3.00-4.00 (Satisfies Written Communication for Core) or
        *- Oral Communication Selective ♦ (FYE Requirement #8) – Credit Hours:3.00 (Satisfies Oral Communication for Core)

        What’s wrong with studying these subjects? Teaching students how to effectively communicate is entirely legitimate, can directly impact one’s later academic and professional success, and is a skill that I’ve heard is increasingly weak among college freshmen. I know professors who teach undergraduates at highly-ranked public colleges, and they both say they’re shocked at how inept many freshmen are at communicating simple ideas in writing. Like, it’s so bad it shakes their faith in their institutions.

        • Belisaurus Rex says:

          My faith in institutions is shaken, and these classes are part of the institution. Learning the skills would be helpful if these classes did or could actually teach them. You’d need a stellar professor to teach a fluff class.

    • Aapje says:

      @SG

      Scientists and activists have been recently debating in my Dutch newspaper whether the hard sciences should be decolonized, so I assume that this is also debated at universities.

      Apparently, a popular figure among the decolonizers is C.K. Raju, who distinguishes between real math, which is practical, and racist Western math that also does pure logic, which is detached from practical use and is bullshit. He and his supporters definitely want to change mathematical methods to something that they argue is both simpler to use and more powerful, but that racist Western people refuse to use, because it is an Indian way of doing things.

      Yet he and others like him commonly accuse Western science of having taking principles from non-Western sources and hiding their origins, so apparently the West is not so racist that we won’t steal good ideas (yet we didn’t steal Raju’s ideas…could they be… bad?)

      It all gives me very Lysenkoist vibes, who was a crank that preferred winning through political means over proving that his ideas are superior.

      More thoughts: the battle of “rigor vs. inclusion” has been playing out in a number of different fields for a long time. My opinion is that it’s a false dichotomy, but I’d like to understand it better.

      Currently, inclusion at American universities is done at least in part by lowering the entry requirements, which results in certain groups that are admitted being less talented than other groups. These are then less capable of handling high-level material, so a logical way to prevent these people from flunking out and thereby undoing the ‘inclusivity,’ is to lower the difficulty of the courses. If you want these people to then become professors or such, it again helps to lower the quality, to reduce the need to put a thumb on a scale.

      PS. I don’t know anything about Purdue and this matter.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        I think that standards would lower even if “certain groups” weren’t allowed in, whatever you mean by that. Students complain, even above average ones, and since students are paying customers, the course is watered down to their level. No one goes to college to get C’s anymore.

        No need to bring in “inclusivity” to explain it.

        • Aapje says:

          I mean ‘certain groups’ as in the groups that benefit from affirmative action.

          Your comment completely fails to understand what I argued in a way that makes me despair a bit.

          My claim is:
          – Affirmative action has a goal (‘inclusivity’)
          – Affirmative action uses lower standards for some groups to achieve this goal
          – Ergo, affirmative action causes these students to differ in average talent from other groups.
          – Ergo, if you have high standards, these students will fail more often
          – Ergo, if you don’t want these students to fail more often (because you want ‘inclusivity’), favoring lower standards helps this.

          The claim by SG was that there is no conflict between rigor vs. inclusion. The above suggests that this conflict does exist, if you define inclusion as greater representation of certain groups, the same groups that benefit from affirmative action.

          • Belisaurus Rex says:

            No, I got your point, I just think that rigor was going down the drain anyway regardless of whether you have affirmative action or not.

            I specifically mention that even “good” students, who have the potential to do better work, will still agitate for easier classes because they are not the “best” students. And even the best students might want their credential and get out.

            My Diff Eq class was very rigorous, probably more rigorous than I needed (my career does not involve differential equations), but I got an A. Every other student complained and now it’s a rubber stamp. That would have happened even without affirmative action.

            Edit: I wasn’t arguing against you, just saying that perhaps you have the causality backwards. Rigor could drop BEFORE inclusion begins.

    • AG says:

      The funny thing is that lack of inclusion has made some of the research have less rigor. Most notably, medical research and human biology knowledge is heavily weighted towards how they are expressed in white male patients. For example, Lyme Disease is most commonly identified by a rash, but that doesn’t work for darker skins, so POC and especially black people are more likely to suffer more serious effects from late diagnosis. It took too long to recognize that heart attacks would manifest differently in women, and mental conditions as ADHD manifest differently in different sexes and races, too. The stigma around menstruation has resulted in policies built around false assumptions. And, of course, there’s the repercussions of doctors’ fatphobia.

      • Aapje says:

        @AG

        For example, Lyme Disease is most commonly identified by a rash, but that doesn’t work for darker skins, so POC and especially black people are more likely to suffer more serious effects from late diagnosis.

        This example and your heart attack example are both really weak. The ‘bullseye’ not being visible on dark skin means that the best sign of the disease is missing for black people. This is not due to racism by the doctors, nor does the disease actually express differently in black people (it’s just not as visible). If doctors are aware that this is the case for black people, it is still harder for them to diagnose the disease in black people (just like it is harder for black people to self-diagnose).

        It’s not the case that having more diversity will magically solve this. Black doctors don’t have black vision that allows them to see bullseye marks in black skin. Having black subjects in studies also doesn’t mean that researchers necessarily find something better for black people, especially since pretty much anything that would work well for black people, should work well for non-black people (because the disease doesn’t actually manifest differently).

        Heart attacks manifest more fuzzily in women, which makes it far from clear that doctors can ever achieve similar results diagnosing women, as they can for men. Diagnosis may be better for women if doctors are aware of this, but it’s very unlikely to become as good as for men, unless we get body monitors or the like, but that will benefit men a lot too.

        • AG says:

          I don’t mind if the benefits from better diversity considerations in medicine benefit men, too.

          But the situation is that before some of these things were pointed out, the minority populations were simply assumed to not have these issues. Women were simply taught to look for the same heart attack symptoms as men, leading to some women dying because they dismissed their own symptoms.
          In the case of Lyme disease, this indicates that technologies could be developed to address this difficulty, by doctors and patients alike.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are diseases with different prevalance across races, and medicines that seem to work differently on average in different races. as And there are, of course, huge biological differences between men and women. So taking this into account in doing medical studies seems really valuable.

            But I’ll note that this isn’t really consistent with the common talking points that “race has no biological meaning” or the even nuttier ones that deny biological sex differences. If you really believed that race was scientifically meaningless, you wouldn’t need to include black and white subjects in your medical studies. Nobody worries about including enough people with even-numbered vs odd-numbered SSNs in their studies.

            And as with many, many other examples, deciding that ideology is more important than reality, or that we need to replace literally true truth with social truth, or that we should push forward a noble lie to accomplish good goals–all that turns out to make everything work worse, and often to land harder on the people your ideology claims to want to help than on everyone else.

          • Aapje says:

            @AG

            I agree that teaching women differently might help a bit. Where I disagree, is that it will bring women up to par with men in their ability to self-diagnose (unless you give men less accurate information than women).

            I don’t mind if the benefits from better diversity considerations in medicine benefit men, too.

            You are missing my point completely there.

            Your argument is that medicinal advances are not done because of an obsession with white men. I argued that white men would benefit too from pretty much any technology that would help black people with Lyme, so there is no reason why an obsession with white men would currently keep this technology from not being developed.

            You seem to believe that there are huge medical advances being left undiscovered because of a lack of diversity, which I very much doubt.

      • rumham says:

        The stigma around menstruation has resulted in policies built around false assumptions.

        What policies?

      • matkoniecz says:

        there’s the repercussions of doctors’ fatphobia

        What you mean by that? Because being fat/obese/overweight is not healthy – are you denying this?

        • AG says:

          There are cases where overweight people get prescribed dieting and exercise for any symptoms, and the doctor refuses to try and diagnose anything else. Deiseach has talked about this sort of thing several times.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve brought it up, too.

            I know a number of fat people whose treatable conditions were ignored by doctors for years or decades.

            I also know 3 people who were told their fatness contributed to ear infections, but I think they were able to get treatment.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Lyme disease is diagnosed using blood tests for antibodies. It’s only getting identified off the rash if the person themselves notices it and brings it to the doctor’s attention; it doesn’t stick around for very long, and many people never get it at all.

        This has nothing to do with white male test subjects.

  34. proyas says:

    In the last open thread, I solicited thoughts on what the best design would be for a robot that could defeat all humans in hand-to-hand combat while being no larger than an average human adult. Ideas converged on something resembling an oversize insect whose low center of gravity and many legs would make it almost impossible to knock over and awkward for a bipedal human to tackle.

    Time for part two of this thought exercise. You are a human and you want to fight such a robot in hand-to-hand combat. What kind of tactics and gear would you use to have the best odds of winning?

    Restrictions:
    -You can wear any type of body armor so long as it is not “powered.”
    -You can use handheld melee weapons like swords, but no projectile weapons, explosives, or electronic weapons.
    -You can wear personal protective equipment like gas masks and biohazard suits.

    • FLWAB says:

      Cover the floor in oil? At minimum it would be amusing to see a robot spider trying to keep it’s balance while slipping across a floor.

      More seriously: the human is very unlikely to win if the robot is armored, which I would imagine it is. Your best bet may be a warhammer or pick, hitting the body as hard as you can, and hoping you break something inside. Lets go with a Lucerne hammer so you have some reach. Still, if the designers did their job right then I would imagine the internal components are well protected from sudden shocks or blows.

      • proyas says:

        The oil will only do anything if the ground is hard and smooth. If you have to fight in the woods, on the grass, or on a floor made of metal gratings, it will be useless.

        Also, in the other thread I decided the robot would have hands, so it could grab your long hammer and yank it away from you.

        • FLWAB says:

          Hey, I didn’t say the hammer was likely to work. Honestly, I don’t think a human is likely to beat a robot in hand to hand combat. Being stronger and tougher than humans is one thing machines have always been good at: try going hand to hand against a windmill and see how well it goes.

    • broblawsky says:

      Would chemical agents designed to attack the polymers & lubricants in the robot’s joints be acceptable?

      • proyas says:

        Yes, but what tactics would you use to deploy the chemicals against the robot? If you get close, it will grab you.

        • broblawsky says:

          A spray bottle or something like a super-soaker would be ideal, but failing that, something like a censer full of solvents you could whirl around your head to disperse could also work.

          That’s basically a Warhammer 40k solution, isn’t it?